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The programs portrayed a utopian world, by resolving “the conflict” through the creation of the separate and newly independent Palestinian Street. Internally to it, they modeled and offered opportunties for the simulation of pro-social inter-“group” contact and friendship, including through targeted behavior change curricular components. This chapter describes the process of producing the series, from the intended encoding, or curriculum design, to the adapted encoding of the curriculum into a screenplay with characters, to the expressed encoding, the ultimate episodes edited together, to their broadcast and evolution over two seasons. The series satisfied the five contact hypothesis “requirements” for successfully reducing prejudice, including by substituting official support recommended for interpersonal encounters with the brand-name appeal of Sesame Workshop, together with Israeli and Palestinian elites’ approval of the series. As discussed in Part II, parents’ trust of the name may have helped boost children’s exposure. For decoding analyses, the author edited together a mock episode featuring the key elements necessary to compare the Palestinian, Jewish Israeli, and Arab/Palestinian Israeli children’s decodings against the producers’ encodings within the context of the Israeli-Palestinian ethno-political and Arab-Israeli multi-state conflicts
Chapter 7 is one of three to describe controlled multi-sited ethnographies the author conducted to reverse-path trace the noise that obfuscated the Sesame Street interventions’ effects and impacts. The ethnographies link the children to their specific communities, looking at how glocalization of interstate systemic forces socialized them and how their everyday lives were reshaped by their respective conflict zones, altering their readings of the text—key to understanding their Palestinian, Jewish Israeli, and Arab/Palestinian Israeli cultures-in-the-making. They also shed light on the children’s dialogical critical intra- and cross-cultural mundane conflict zone experiences and perspectives. A detailed layout describes the lives of the Palestinian audience members, residents of the stateless nation village of East Barta’a—how they are perceived by Jewish Israelis seeking security, Arab/Palestinian Israelis seeking equality, and as they see themselves, seeking justice, as an island cut off from the rest of Palestine/the PA by a “wall” and gate to the east and Israel proper to the west. At age 5, they had already become acculturated to their ethnopolitical grouping’s interpretation of conflict zones structures. They symbolically transferred the meaning of “Jew” into an “army of infidels,” preventing them from achieving independence, “correcting” the imbalance they perceived that could not accommodate their interpersonal contact with Israeli soldiers, with Sesame Street’s encoding of civilian and good-natured “Jews.” They normalized the conflict, adopting protest play patterns and explained that the only resolution is “converting Jews to Islam,” eliminating the other party to “the conflict.”
This chapter’s ethnography of the “quality of life” West Bank development/settlement of Alfei Menashe describes the structural realities and security schematic narrative lens through which this Jewish Israeli audience filtered “the conflict” and understood the series. They are viewed from outside by stateless-nation Palestinians as living behind the “Wall Enclave” and by state-minority Arab/Palestinian Israelis as a “settlement” (most Jewish Israelis regard it as a “consensus settlement”). Alfei provides its children the greatest opportunity for contact with Palestinians, which the separation barrier has all but eliminated for Israelis. Neither interpersonal contact with Palestinian day laborers who build and clean their homes and playgrounds, nor imagined contact influenced their readings of the text. From secondary conversations, news media portrayals, and artifacts like the barrier constructed to maintain the secured existence of Israel, they learn Palestinians are those who commit terror. Via a binary logic, anyone allowed into Israel (or Sesame Street) is not Palestinian. Fearing harm, a majority erased Palestinian characters. These processes, not Sesame Street, were overwhelmingly socializing them, leading them to oppose the series’ attempt to communicate peace. They normalized and reproduced “the conflict,” assuming defensive play patterns; for them, the resolution is “evicting, killing or imprisoning” Palestinians.
The penultimate chapter details a follow-up study in 2011, updating the now tween aged children’s political opinions regarding resolution of the conflict and inter-grouping attitudes. Importantly but perhaps not surprisingly, the Arab/Palestinian-Israeli children, the bicultural bilingual hybrid product of the conflict, alone, endorsed a single bi-national Israeli-Palestinian state. They are best poised for successfully negotiating it. Strategically, they see such a bi-national state as everyone’s, arguing for the need to work together to protect it. To that end, the book concludes by recommending PeaceComm practitioners not just target them, but encourage Arab/Palestinian Israeli media and conflict management practitioners to be the ones doing the targeting. Peacebuilding should be incorporated into existing child development practices to help leverage such outcomes, fostering this grouping’s identity, as state minority citizens-in-the-making, into peacebuilders-in-the-making. The success of PeaceComm, and more broadly, making and sustaining positive and holistic peace, the author concludes, are dependent on understanding, addressing and empowering such bicultural mediators-in-the-making to bring about change. The conflict is political not personal to them. Policy-relevant political beliefs must be addressed should media impacts restructuring social, political, economic and military structures be achieved.
This chapter provides seventeen recommendations intended to improve PeaceComm practice worldwide.
The first six recommendations suggest continuing the Sesame Workshop design. The remainder provide a design template for Israeli and Palestinian Sesame Street and other future cross-comparative PeaceComm interventions around the globe. Where relevant, these range from weaving in structural inequality realities and relative narrative approaches to conflict contexts, varying intervention designs by world system categorical target populations, treating children as active human beings when they are the target of interventions and only targeting them if indeed treating them more like adults, developing direct and ongoing relations with communication and peace and conflict scholars, structuring interpersonal communication, treating communication as a process not only product, continuing the use of the embedded factor of production effects model, conceptualizing communication also as a mediating artifact, and cultivating the bicultural “target” of an intervention to be peace-maker mediators-in-the-making. In the case of these conflicts, that means incorporating peacebuilding into child development approaches for Arab/Palestinian Israeli children out of an aim to empower their active future mediation roles
To this point, I have described the encoding and production of a PeaceComm intervention, critically assessed it and illustrated recommended methodologies for comparative global assessment and evaluation of PeaceComm interventions worldwide. I have done so to encourage evidence-based practice to improve practice outcomes, and alongside them, encourage and improve the scholarship required for it, and if successful, peacebuilding, making and sustainment requisite structural changes. This final part of the book summarizes my key assessment findings (Chapter 10), and offers recommendations for future PeaceComm practice (Chapter 11), including by drawing on my 2011 follow-up study (Chapter 12).
The Palestinian, Jewish Israeli and Arab/Palestinian Israeli audiences for the Sesame Street and Sesame Stories intervention are each situated around the Israeli-Palestinian ethno-political conflict from a different vantage point. From a world systems perspective, Palestinians constitute a stateless nation, Jewish Israelis, a state-bearing nation and Arab/Palestinian Israelis, a state minority (represented in Table II.1). In this study, I posit that the audiences, as well as the series’ producers, are situated within these categories of practice, which outline the relationship to the global interstate system with which “members” of each “group” are currently in dialogue. Having looked at this PeaceComm intervention as a text, I now turn to my reception analysis of it. By analyzing the campaign categorically, I hope to provide a template for the comparative global design of future PeaceComm assessment and evaluation research.
This chapter looks at the interpretations of the series by the Arab/Palestinian Israeli state minority audience in Uhm Al-Fahm. Half decoded “Jews”; one-third decoded Palestinians. All concluded there were “Arab” characters in Sesame Street, meaning Arab/Palestinian Israelis. Drawing on assumptions about language, physical features, or attire of characters, they typically converted Jewish Israeli characters into “Arabs,” moving them from the national to the civic axis, still Israeli but specifically Arab/Palestinian Israelis like themselves. Palestinian characters moved from the civic to the national on the continuum, and were interpreted as just “Arabs.” A majority held negative to very negative attitudes about Jewish Israelis, and very positive to very negative attitudes about Palestinians, their other shared other. In some cases they negatively stereotyped the former as “police” and the latter as “dirty, primitive or poor.” Optimistically for peace-building, most nonetheless adopted positive attitudes toward all the characters they had “correctly” decoded as pro-social and nice, and were able to generalize those mediated experiences to the other characters on screen and to the real world. This suggests there is some room for Sesame Street to influence the Arab/Palestinian Israeli audience’s inter-grouping attitudes towards these shared others.
This chapter parses the study’s conclusions: it took only five years for these young stateless nation, state-bearing nation, and state minority audiences to become militarily, politically, economically, and socially encoded by the global interstate system. The children unwittingly replicated the violence of the conflicts surrounding them and expressed political opinions that their partners’ elimination was the sole solution. The glocal, hybrid, open and closed mediated text imagined the achievement of what each audience defined peace to be—justice of an independent Palestine; security of a safe Israel, and equality inside Israel. But it sidestepped the structural and narrative realities of the political conflicts and so could not address and change political beliefs. While communicating peacebuilding, the text did not communicate peacemaking. And even much of its peacebuilding thrust was “lost upon” audience members when they resisted the texts pro-social depictions of friendships between and among Palestinians and Israelis, in particular, between Palestinians and Jewish Israelis.
This chapter offers a theoretical overview of the modern world system: a system ordered by states rather than nations. The normative acceptance of the unit and design of the state internal to this, the interstate system, proscribes that people should live sedentarized lives within clearly demarcated state borders, governed by statebearing nations ruling over them. Sesame Street’s adaptation of the interstate system, in turn, meant that Israeli citizens (Jewish and Palestinian citizens of the state of Israel) were bound to their street-state, Rechov Sumsum, and later, Sippuray Sumsum, and Palestinian citizens (Palestinians citizens of the non-state institution of the Palestinian Authority), to Shara’a Simsim, and later, Hikayat Simsim. If citizens crossed one-street-state into the other, the assumption was that they would necessarily return “home” to their own bordered street-state.