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Series / Tomorrow's Pioneers

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Assud the Martyrdom Rabbit

Tomorrow's Pioneers (also known as The Pioneers of Tomorrow) is a Palestinian children's program created by Hazim Al-Sha'arawi, directed by Fathi Hammad, and broadcast by the Hamas-affiliated television station Al-Aqsa TV between 2007 and 2009. The show follows a fairly typical kids' show format with Saraa Barhoum as the host and various costumed animals as her co-hosts as they discuss life in occupied Palestine in talk-show format, with various skits interspersed throughout.

The show is incredibly controversial due to its alleged promotion of general fundamentalist Islamic rhetoric as well as violent resistance to Israeli occupation, irredentist views of what constitutes occupied Palestine, and radical anti-American sentiment, along with accusations of antisemitism by the Anti-Defamation League, Palestinian Media Watch, and MEMRI. The veracity of these accusations is a bit of a murky subject, as it has been pointed out that they all originate from staunchly pro-Israel (and thus potentially biased) groups and that they completely ignore the brutal aspects of the Israeli occupation that feed the resentment the show plays to, but even so, the show does indeed heavily feature realistic violence and religious fundamentalism presented in a way intended to appeal to kids. Some of the show's controversy has also originated from Palestinian audiences and advocacy groups, who feel the show is just an excessively inflammatory and fundamentalist Author Tract that is highly counterproductive to the actual cause of Palestinian liberation.

Besides the extremist content, the show is also notorious for featuring characters and skits very blatantly ripped-off from popular American cartoons, like Farfour (Mickey Mouse), and Assoud (pictured, a blend of Bugs Bunny and Roger Rabbit), which resulted in something of a feud between Walt Disney's daughter, Diane Disney Miller, and director Fathi Hammad.

And before we go on... No, this isn't some Creepypasta. Some people really will go this far (and moreso) to make their point.

This show provides examples of:

  • Anyone Can Die: Unusually for a show aimed at young children, no character is safe.
  • Artistic License History: In Season 1 Episode 5, Farfour's grandfather tells him that the city of Tel Aviv was originally an Arab village named "Tel al-Rabi" that was taken over by Israel in 1948 and renamed in an attempt to cover its origins up. In real life, while the city of Jaffa (which Tel Aviv now encompasses) has existed for thousands of years and was inhabited by many different ethnic groups, Tel Aviv itself began as a Jewish settlement in 1909 and never was "Tel al-Rabi", although it did annex Arab villages as it expanded, like Sheikh Munis (currently the site of the Tel Aviv University), Salame (nowadays a poor neighborhood around the Central Bus Station populated by migrant workers and asylum seekers from third-world countries) and Sumayil (which was annexed to Tel Aviv before 1948, and finally demolished in 2021 as its western boundaries lined up with a major avenue, making its lands prime real estate grounds).
  • As the Good Book Says...: The Quran is frequently referenced by the main characters, and some episodes are focused around moral lessons taught through various Hadith passages read by Saraa.
  • Author Tract: The show, being broadcast by Hamas, constantly espouses the group's party line both blatantly and subtextually.
  • Bad People Abuse Animals: Discussed in the episode "Nahoul's Big Day Out", where Nahoul is upset by his family's imprisonment and takes it out on some animals at the Gaza zoo. The episode has him learn the Aesop that it is always wrong to be cruel to animals through a Hadith story about a woman who locked up her starving cat and her karmic punishment.
  • Defiant to the End: As Farfour is beaten to death by the Israeli agent, he curses and calls him and his kind "criminals and terrorists".
  • Dissonant Serenity: Saraa is remarkably calm and even happy when every time her co-hosts [[inevitably Once a Season ends up dead.]] even posthumously congratulating Nahoul. The only exception to this however is when Assoud ends up dying.
  • The Fundamentalist: Pretty much every protagonist character is a strict Sunni-Islamic fundamentalist, although the show naturally frames this as a positive quality.
  • Greedy Jew: The show actually mostly averts this trope; the "Zionist Jew" antagonists are universally depicted as bloodthirsty sadistic invaders hellbent on conquering Palestine and exterminating every last Palestinian, but seemingly only by virtue of them being a puppet arm of the greater imperialist United States and not any inherent "greedy" qualities.
  • Killed Off for Real:
    • Farfour, in Episode 5 of the first Season, is beaten to death by an Israeli interrogator after he calls him a "despicable terrorist" and refuses to divulge the location of the Key of Tel al-Rabi. Saraa explains to the kids that Farfour was "martyred defending his land" in the following scene.
    • Nahoul the bumblebee dies in Season 2 Episode 6 after he comes down with a serious illness and the Israeli government prevents his family passage from the Gaza strip to Egypt to get important surgery. Saraa says he died "a martyr's death" and is replaced by Assoud, his brother... who's also a rabbit.
    • Assoud is mortally wounded in the final episode of Season 3 during an Israeli attack during the real-life 2008-2009 Gaza conflict and dies in the hospital at the end.
  • Meaningful Name:
    • The Mickey Mouse ripoff's name is Farfour, which comes from a diminutive of "fi'r", which means "mouse" in Arabic.
    • Nahoul is a diminutive of "nahl", "bee". However, "Assoud" is a diminutive of "asad", "lion". Assoud explains this by stating that he would rather be named for something other than the cowardly rabbit.
  • Mocky Mouse: Farfour is a rather blatant Mickey Mouse rip-off, to the degree that the color of his skin and fur is completely unchanged and thus makes him look like a bootleg plush of the character.
  • No-Holds-Barred Beatdown: Farfour is brutally beaten to death by an Israeli interrogator after he refuses to sell the keys to Tel Al-Rabi.
  • No Sympathy: When Assoud is accused of committing a theft, Saraa excitedly announces he must be punished by having his hand cut off. The rabbit begs for mercy from the kids at home to help him: "God No! Please for the love of God!" Viewers that call in to talk then tell him that he deserves this because he committed a crime, much to the agonizing tears of Assoud. Ultimately, Saraa reveals that this was apparently some kind of practical joke and that she will not cut his hand off, though she does also joke about taking one of his ears instead.
  • Once a Season: Each season's animal co-host will inevitably be killed off in the season finale.
  • Replacement Goldfish: Every time an animal cohost gets killed off, a new one is brought on. Farfour the mouse, Nahoul the bee, Assoud the rabbit, and finally Nassour the bear.
  • Sapient Eat Sapient: The Palestinian Media Watch translation of Assoud the rabbit's introduction has him saying "And I, Assud, will finish off the Jews and eat them, Allah willing". Whether this counts as cannibalism depends on how anthropomorphized Assoud is supposed to be, but still.note 
  • Screw the Money, I Have Rules!: The Israeli interrogator offers Farfour a large sum of money in exchange for giving away the documents and keys to Tel Al-Rabi. Farfour refuses and calls him a "despicable terrorist", to which the interrogator responds by beating him to death on-screen.
  • Spell My Name with an S: The costumed mouse is either Farfur or Farfour, depending on how you romanize the Arabic.
  • Throw the Dog a Bone: Nassour, the last host, was the only one not to die.