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Why the US won't fund Palestinian 'Sesame Street'

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Daniella Cheslow

(Read caption) Actor Rajai Sandouka-Karim and the rooster he plays on ‘Sesame Street.’

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• A local, slice-of-life story from a Monitor correspondent.

Daoud Kuttab usually produces a Palestinian version of “Sesame Street” that teaches children how to count. But lately he has had to focus on his own bottom line. Three months after an American funding freeze, his show is so behind schedule that the writers’ workshop rooms are empty, the editing studios are dark, and the Muppets have left the West Bank for repairs.

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Mr. Kuttab says that in October he was expecting to receive $2.5 million from the US Agency for International Development for the next three years. But Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R) of Florida froze $192 million in congressional funding to USAID’s programs in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip in retaliation for the Palestinian bid for statehood at the United Nations, which the United States opposed.

Each season, Kuttab works with teachers and child psychologists to craft 26 episodes around themes of tolerance, sharing, and friendship. Kuttab said that even if money is restored he will not manage to produce any new episodes in 2012.