During his research Dr Asi Sharabi, a former Lieutenant in the Israeli Defence Forces, worked with Israeli children from three different social settings – kibbutz, city and Jewish settlements. The research uses drawings, role-play compositions and interviews to explore the social, cultural and historical contexts that hinder the ability of Israeli children to understand the Palestinian perspective.
It showed that for Israeli children, the ability to construct the Palestinian viewpoint is constrained by their own cultural perceptions of the conflict. Working with the Israeli children Dr Sharabi revealed that their feelings about Palestinians could often be contradictory. Racist and dehumanising perceptions that ignore the humanity of the Palestinians or present them as inferior, savage and dangerous sit along side feelings of compassion and acknowledgment of their national rights. One Israeli child, for example, described a Palestinian child as:
“Cruel and ugly man that wants our country to himself but also poor man and on the other hand I feel sorry for him because just like any other ordinary human being he deserves to have something in his life....”
These findings offer a valuable insight for those seeking to understand how prejudices are built and maintained in conflict situations and therefore how they might be overcome.
Commenting on winning the prize Dr Sharabi said: “It's absolutely amazing. I always believed that the findings of this research deserve to be communicated outside academia and I’m very happy to be able to give these children a voice. They have the potential to impact on anyone who has interest in education, political conflict in general and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in particular.
“In future, I hope to be able to collaborate with Palestinian researchers as well as with Israeli-Palestinian Non-Governmental Organisations to apply my research to find creative ways to change, if only by little, the psychological barriers that perpetuate the conflict.”
Conceived in honour of the founder of the ESRC, the late Lord Michael Young, the prize aims to reward and encourage early career researchers whose work offers genuine new insights and is likely to have an impact beyond academia. As joint 2007 winner Asi receives £3,000 to help him communicate his research to potential users outside of academia.
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