Prize-winning research gives insight into children's perspective of Israeli-Palestinian conflict

November 26, 2007

Research looking at the barriers confronting Israeli children in understanding the Palestinian perspective of the Israeli Palestinian conflict has recently attracted honour from the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) and the Young Foundation by winning the prestigious Michael Young Prize.

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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FOR FURTHER INFORMATION INCLUDING ACCESS TO DRAWINGS AND CASE STUDIES, CONTACT:

ESRC Press Office:
Alexandra Saxon on Tel: 01793 413032, e-mail: alexandra.saxon@esrc.ac.uk
Danielle Moore, Tel: 01793 413122, e-mail: danielle.moore@esrc.ac.uk

NOTES FOR EDITORS:

1. A podcast interview with Dr Sharabi talking about his research is available at: www.esrc.ac.uk/asisharabi/

2. Dr Asi Sharabi is currently working as a Social Media Strategist in London. A former Lieutenant in the Israeli Defence Forces, Asi studied Social Psychology at the London School of Economics. Last year he won the LSE Robert Mackenzie Prize for his PhD thesis.

3. The ESRC is the UK's largest funding agency for research and postgraduate training relating to social and economic issues. It supports independent, high quality research relevant to business, the public sector and voluntary organisations. The ESRC's planned total expenditure in 2007 - 08 is £181 million. At any one time the ESRC supports over 4,000 researchers and postgraduate students in academic institutions and research policy institutes. More at http://www.esrcsocietytoday.ac.uk

4. The Young Foundation was founded in 2005, formed from the merger of the Institute of Community Studies and the Mutual Aid Centre. The foundation is a centre for social innovation identifying and understanding unmet social needs and developing practical initiatives to address them. The foundation works in many fields - including health, education, housing and cities and bringing together research and action, including the creation of new enterprises. The Young Foundation has been established to re-energise this powerful combination of research and practical action. More at http://www.youngfoundation.org.uk

5. ESRC Society Today offers free access to a broad range of social science research and presents it in a way that makes it easy to navigate and saves users valuable time. As well as bringing together all ESRC-funded research and key online resources such as the Social Science Information Gateway and the UK Data Archive, non-ESRC resources are included, for example the Office for National Statistics. The portal provides access to early findings and research summaries, as well as full texts and original datasets through integrated search facilities. More at http://www.esrcsocietytoday.ac.uk

Economic & Social Research Council

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