Friday, October 23, 2009

Sesame Street Muppets Headed For Gaza

Agence France-Press (AFP) has reported that Big Bird and his pals are trying hard to get access to the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip to talk about peaceful conflict resolution and carry out some Muppet Diplomacy.

On Wednesday, Gary Knell, president of the Sesame Workshop, the educational organization behind Sesame Street, said
"We know that it's an extremely volatile area, but we also feel that it's really important that we take this step forward to promote self esteem for Palestinians."

A Palestinian version of the popular children's television dseries - Sharaa Simsim - is already shown in the West Bank, but the signal does not reach Gaza."We are going into production with new programs now based in Ramallah that will focus a lot on peaceful conflict resolution," Knell said at a news conference in Jerusalem.

He said he is particularly keen to send the famous Muppets to Gaza, where the station run by Hamas has stirred international outrage with its cartoon characters seen as glorifying violence against Israel.

"We have felt it important to broadcast (Sharaa Simsin) in Gaza. We feel the children there are in need of positive programming in light of the circumstances over the past couple years," Knell said.

He said he hoped this could be realized within a year at most.

"We're going to work with the ministry of education in the Palestinian territories, the prime minister and others to build a really strong Sharaa Simsim, and it is our goal to have this broadcast in Gaza," he said.

"I believe the program needs to be seen and we'll use whatever means we can to get it to the children," he said.

He said he was considering broadcasting the program to Gaza through satellite, but was also looking into asking the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) or non-governmental organizations to show it to the children of Gaza.

Sesame Street marks its 40th anniversary this year and is seen in more than 140 countries. That "has pretty much made it the longest street in the world," said Knell, who was rudely interrupted by grumps and groans from Moishe Oofnik, the Israeli cousin of Oscar the Grouch.

It was only after a firm but polite intervention by Sivan, a disabled Muppet in a wheelchair who will debut in Israel in December, that Knell was able to resume speaking.
(Photo by AFP)

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