SESAME STREET, PALESTINE: TAKING SESAME STREET TO THE CHILDREN OF PALESTINE (HARDCOVER EDITION) by Daoud Kuttab

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978-1-62933-250-5

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Big Birds are rare in Palestine. 

Daoud Kuttab knows. The ups and downs of producing a world-famous children’s program quickly escalated into more than just teaching Elmo to speak Arabic like the new Palestinian characters, Kareem and Hanin. The executive producer of the Palestinian version of Sesame Street endured working under Israeli occupation, navigating through checkpoints and M15s, arrest, and personal tragedy. Animating hand puppets against a backdrop of the turbulent Palestinian-Israeli peace process drew him into exciting, tense times that made Cookie Monster’s search for sweets seem like child’s play.  

After a surprise phone call from Children’s Television Workshop, Daoud took the chance of lifetime to create a Palestinian coproduction of Sesame Street. From finding actors and puppeteers in a country starved of training to dealing with a community that considered the production too provocative, the early days were less than easy. A controversial crossover segment, where Palestinians and Israelis meet on screen on the same street, only added to the tension. Unable to film in Ramallah, the whole production—including Daoud’s son and star of the show, Bishara—traveled with the Palestinian-made set to TV studios in Tel Aviv. They even had to smuggle in the lead puppeteer, Fadi al Ghol. Yet, days after the first episode aired, Daoud was arrested.  

Journey into his unusual world, where the signing of the Oslo Accords, Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, Hollywood star Richard Gere, and the King of Jordan played important roles. Not even Kermit could have imagined this unique, exciting, and undeniably fascinating expansion of America’s most enduring children’s show into a new world bound by the West Bank desert, politics, media, and money. 

Illustrated. Available in print and audiobook editions.

About the author: Daoud Kuttab, a Palestinian award-winning journalist and television producer from Jerusalem, co-produced Palestinian Diaries, Icarus Films that has become the best chronicle of the Palestinian intifada. He is a former Ferris Professor of Journalism at Princeton University, columnist for Al-Monitor, and reporter for Arab News. He established the Institute of Modern Media at Al Quds University and was the first Palestinian to interview an Israeli Prime Minister for the leading Al Quds daily in June 1993. He writes regularly in major publications, such as the Washington Post, New York Times, and Jordan Times, and often contributes to Project Syndicate. He established the Arab world’s first internet radio AmmanNet, and is the founder and director of Community Media Network in Amman. As a leading activist for press freedom in the Arab world, he was the first Arab to be elected to the Vienna-based International Press Institute, where he holds the portfolio of press freedom.


Daoud Kuttab’s book Sesame Street, Palestine  by BearManor Media is a unique insider view of creating a groundbreaking Palestinian children’s series to build a positive foundation for young children in the West Bank and Gaza. With his journalistic integrity,  Kuttab takes the readers compellingly through the complexity of what would otherwise be a relatively straight forward idea of producing a Sesame street co-production to the complexity of the highly politicized Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Daoud’s narrative reflects his passion for Palestinian  children and his genuine desire for peace in the Middle East.

Gary Knell CEO of National Geographic Partners, former CEO of Sesame Workshop


Daoud Kuttab’s “Sesame Street, Palestine” is a remarkable combination of a great story and brilliant storytelling. It also is a good illustration of how, in the Palestinian context dominated by the reality of half-a-century of Israeli occupation and domination, what is a personal life story can so effectively reflect the conscience and mindset of a whole people. Above all, it is a story that humanizes the Palestinian people’s struggle for freedom and dignity on the strength of an unyielding will to overcome adversity and attain empowerment. Drawing on a lifelong career in journalism, Daoud does all of this so well and efficiently. His “Sesame Street” would be an excellent choice of a book to pack for a short trip, but also a valuable source in any scholarly pursuit on Palestinian empowerment.  

Salam Fayyad former Palestinian Prime Minister and current visiting professor at Princeton University's Woodrow Wilson Center for Public & International Affairs


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