UNIVERSITY PARK, PA. – Can peace between Israelis and Palestinians be achieved in part through anti-bias messages in children’s educational entertainment? That is the subject of a new book by Yael Warshel, Assistant Professor of Telecommunications and Media Industries at Penn State, entitled “Experience the Israeli-Palestinian conflict: children, peace communication and socialization. ”
The book, published by Cambridge University Press, offers an in-depth study of communication interventions aimed at reducing prejudice between groups between Israeli and Palestinian children. In particular, the book critically evaluates the effectiveness of Israeli and Palestinian versions of the children’s television show “Sesame Street” in building and helping to make and maintain peace.
Can peace between Israelis and Palestinians be achieved in part through anti-bias messages in children’s educational entertainment? That is the subject of a new book by Yael Warshel, Assistant Professor of Telecommunications and Media Industry.
BILD: Courtesy of Yael Warshel
The series offered a utopian vision of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. On the show, Israeli and Palestinian children became friends and the conflict had already been resolved through the creation of two separate states: Israel and Palestine.
“The set neglected to take into account the existing structural realities that determine the lives of the audience and instead focused ‘multicultural’ on changing attitudes between groups on an individual level,” said Warshel. For example, on one episode of the show, a Palestinian named Adel said to his muppet friend Haneen, ‘Yes, they eat falafel and hummus just like us,’ after Haneen learned that the Israeli Muppet Dafi was eating the same foods.
“Existing literature has examined the content or production of peace-keeping, educational, and news messages aimed at conveying armed political conflict, but has not assessed the audience’s interpretation of those messages,” said Warshel, also a research fellow at Rock Ethics Institute and an Affiliate Faculty Member in International Affairs, International and Comparative Education, Middle East and African Studies. “In my book, I explain how the audience on Israeli and Palestinian ‘Sesame Street’ interpreted the series’ messages of peace and why they ultimately rejected them.”
Warshel’s research for the book included a three-year ethnographic study of Israeli and Palestinian communities. She also interviewed and interviewed randomly polls of more than 320 five- to eight-year-old children and 230 corresponding parents, for a total population of 550 Palestinians, Jewish Israelis, and Arab-Palestinian Israelis. Finally, she carried out an in-depth analysis of the audience reception with 65 of the 320 children to whom she showed the series “Sesame Street”.
“Unfortunately, I learned that the children in my study were already socialized in such a way that they ignored the attempted peace message from Sesame Street,” said Warshel. “Peace is defined by every ‘group’ at the elite level as justice, security or equality. These separate outcome goals for peace and the related structural realities and narratives that children experience separately form the lens through which they actively recreate what they “see” in their daily life and what they “see” on television programs. to have. ”
For example, when an episode was shown in which the cultural backgrounds of the characters were not mentioned, when asked if the episode contained someone Jewish Israeli or Jew, the Palestinian children replied that they had not seen anyone in military uniforms, namely an army so there were no “Jews”. Similarly, the Jewish Israeli children concluded that Palestinians were not included in the episode because they did not see “terrorists”. Even after watching an episode showing Palestinians and Jewish Israelis working together, the children did not change their minds. Both groups concluded that the only way to resolve the conflict was to culturally or physically eliminate the other party.
“The children were so ingrained in their beliefs that it emerged from their direct experiences in conflict areas and from interacting with artifacts and communicating with and about older members from and in the particular village, city in which they grew up They couldn’t “see” what “Sesame Street” was trying to model for them, ”said Warshel.
Interestingly, the third group Warshel examined, Arab / Palestinian Israeli children (Arab / Palestinian citizens of Israel), responded more positively to the show’s messages, suggesting that they could be viewed as an important asset. Practitioners should not only specifically support them in their efforts to facilitate peace, but also encourage and support them with the necessary resources to become peacemakers who can intervene in the conflict themselves, Warshel said.
Overall, however, Warshel found that their results show that conveyed messages, even those that represent the most carefully designed peace-building interventions at the international level, are incapable of easily, if at all, influencing modern armed political conflict.
Warshel said her findings could be applicable beyond the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The design for their study is based on comparative data and theories on political conflict in large samples.
“Instead of studying each ‘group’ as if there were existing sui generis, I compared them using categories derived from the world system,” she explained. Her recommendations “therefore serve as a starting point for designing and predicting how other stateless nations, state-supporting nations, and state minorities might interact with peace communication interventions elsewhere.” Palestinians, Jewish Israelis and Arab / Palestinian Israelis, she argued, “inhabit at the same time these practice categories of the modern world system. The current world system, which consists of states rather than empires or city-states, for example, privileges a fusion between ethnopolitical “group identity” and state-based citizenship rights. This fusion is the pre-eminent cultural lens through which people filter incoming stimuli and understand their lives, ”she theorized.
She concludes the book with recommendations for improving “Sesame Street” and peace communication practice in general. It is applied generally to conflict zones elsewhere or to political conflicts in general, as in the United States today, and offers 17 recommendations. Among other things, she advises to include the structural and narrative realities of a particular political conflict in intervention concepts and, when targeting children, to hit them where they are and not where adults think they are.