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French Version

Peace now or the bunny gets it

OFirst there was Farfour, the mouse, who was killed by Israelis; then there was Nahool, the bee, who died in a Gaza hospital bed from lack of care. The latest character on Tomorrow's Pioneers, Hamas TV's weekly children's program, is Assoud, the bunny. Assoud's fate, the program makers say, will depend on what Israel does next.

Menassat, Here's what's happening in Arab media.

Assoud means "small lion," which seems an odd name to give to a bunny.

But Sarraa Barhoum, the 12-year-old host of Tomorrow's Pioneers, the weekly children's program on Al-Aqsa TV, has an explanation ready.

"By creating a bunny character", she told MENASSAT, "we wanted to show that although a bunny is seen as weak, it can sometimes possess the power of a lion."

This, she said, "is an accurate description of the Palestinian people who are viewed as weak by some but actually have a strength similar to that of a lion."

Little Sarraa has become something of a media star as the veiled but very determined host of Tomorrow's Pioneers.

The show has received a lot of criticism, especially from Israel and the West, for the way it incites hatred for Israel among the children of Gaza.

Its latest character, Assoud, has been described as "genocidal" because of its promise to "eat all the Jews."

Sarraa begged to differ.

"The show's creators are trying to send a message to the children," she said, "and to develop concepts through various types of sketches through which we try to present a wrong situation that needs fixing."

What's next for Assoud?

According to Samir Abu Mohsen, director of programming at Al-Aqsa, "We are trying to address the international public opinion, to raise compassion with the suffering of the Palestinian children under the blockade, who are widely affected by the sanctions imposed on the Palestinian people."

As usual, Al-Aqsa is keeping the show's plot under close wraps.

We asked the question anyway.

What will happen to Assoud, the bunny? Will he end up dead like Nahool and Farfour, or does the future hold another fate in store for him?

"We haven't decided on the fate of Assoud yet", Abu Mohsen admitted.

"The show's characters are a reflection of the Palestinian reality so the plot is related to developments on the ground. Maybe there will be a settlement with the Israelis and the blockade will be lifted; then Assoud might be able to travel."

But if the opposite happens, he warned, "and the Israeli attacks on Gaza resume to kill more children, then Assoud's ending will have to be in accordance with this reality."

Meanwhile, Sarraa said, Assoud will go on informing the children of Gaza of the Palestinian values and the rights of the Palestinians.

Whatever happens to Assoud, she said, "we will keep the program going and if necessary develop a new character to reflect our daily lives."

A-student and TV star

By her own admission, she hasn't given much thought to the controversy over the program she has been hosting every Friday for almost a year.

She is fully convinced of the ideas presented by the show, she said, and she dismissed any idea of her being brainwashed by Hamas ideology.

"I participate in the preparation of all the episodes. No one can impose anything on me that I am not convinced of."

She is not affiliated to any party, she said, and she is not interested in spreading the ideas of any political party through a children's program.

"Programs such as these should be driven by the suffering and the problems of the children, and the producers should off the children solutions to some of these problems."

Of course, she admitted, "I am a religious girl. I have memorized the Quran and I wear the veil. But these are private matters."

According to her teachers, Sarraa is an A-student who has scored top grades at her prep school in Rafah.

As far as her future is concerned, she said she is working hard to get high grades so that she could study medicine, a field from which women are still largely absent in Gaza.

She also has a dream of becoming a Muslim spokesperson in Europe, in order to set the record straight about Islam and correct some of the wrongful concepts that Europeans entertain about her religion.

Asked about the possibility of a TV career, she said she would consider it, "but only if it is program that aims to build the next Muslim generation rather than talk about futile things, no matter how renowned the TV station is."

Marseille,03 30 2008
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