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Friday, 21 December, 2001, 03:52 GMT
Israeli channel pulls Arafat TV game
Two in a Boat television game
The television game was considered too light-hearted
By the BBC's Caroline Hawley in Jerusalem

An Israeli cable television company, Golden Channels, has pulled the plug on a interactive game which features Yasser Arafat and Ariel Sharon as cartoon characters, arguing that the current situation between Israelis and Palestinians is no laughing matter.

The game presents caricatures of the Palestinian and Israeli leaders - Yasser Arafat with a hooked nose and enormous lips and Ariel Sharon with a bulging belly and huge cheeks.

The game itself is very funny, but we felt it crossed a line

Orly Dekel, Golden Channels
The two men, who in real life have not met since Ariel Sharon came to power, are shown sticking their tongues out and flashing victory signs at each other.

Called Two In A Boat, it is a memory game in which the player chooses one of the characters and then has to imitate the movements of the other in the correct order.

Failure earns an order "Go to Gaza!" - an Israeli slang expression meaning "get lost" that derives from the Gaza Strip's reputation as a miserable place.

But the main complaint of Golden Channels, the cable station that was going to run the game, is that it presents Yasser Arafat in too favourable a light, at a time when most Israelis hold the Palestinian leader responsible for attacks that have claimed more than 240 Israeli lives since the latest conflict began in September 2000.

Palestinian children confront an Israeli tank
Recent violence between Israel and the Palestinians has claimed over 1,000 lives

"Yasser Arafat comes out looking too soft," said Orly Dekel, vice-president of marketing for Golden Channels.

"And we don't think Yasser Arafat's actions are soft. The game itself is very funny, but we felt it crossed a line. When people are dying, it seems wrong."

Golden Channels says it is now asking the company to drop the Yasser Arafat character and replace him with an Israeli politician instead.

The decision comes a week after the Israeli cabinet declared Yasser Arafat irrelevant, but officials at Zoe, the company that made the game, do not believe there is a link.

"Maybe it was just too sensitive," said the director of Zoe, Alon Shtruzman.

"It does relate to a delicate situation. But we thought the game was a nice joke."

See also:

20 Dec 01 | Middle East
Israeli tanks pull back
20 Dec 01 | Middle East
Hamas may end suicide attacks
16 Dec 01 | Middle East
Arafat pleads for talks with Israel
16 Dec 01 | Middle East
Palestinian police shut out militants
13 Dec 01 | Middle East
Palestinian leader's house raided
12 Dec 01 | Middle East
Arafat says Sharon has him marked
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