The death of Israeli leader Ariel Sharon this week has polarized opinion across the globe concerning his lifetime. Divisive even today, Pandeia explores through two unique viewpoints how Sharon’s legacy lives on most fiercely through the young people in both Israeli and Palestinian communities.
To many Israelis, Ariel Sharon was ‘The Bulldozer’ – a heroic warrior, leading decisive military campaigns in the 1967 and 1973 wars.
But to many Palestinians he was The Butcher, who laid siege to Beirut and was responsible for the deaths of at least 800 civilians in the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps in Lebanon in 1982.
It was this stark dichotomy that was repeated throughout the day of his death on Twitter.
My email box is flooded with statements from those who loved and hated Ariel Sharon….a divisive figure until the end
— Kevin Flower (@KMFlower) January 11, 2014
While the views of political leaders from around the world were heard:
British PM David Cameron: Ariel Sharon took brave and controversial decisions in pursuit of peace — Barak Ravid (@BarakRavid) January 11, 2014
PM Netanyahu on the passing of former PM Ariel Sharon: “His memory will live forever in the nation’s heart” 2/2 — Ofir Gendelman (@ofirgendelman) January 11, 2014
The journalist at the forefront of the NSA controversy Glenn Greenwald quickly set the tone for much of the anti-Sharon Twitter discourse.
Don’t even try to impose the speak-no-ill-of-the-recently-deceased “rule” for Ariel Sharon.
— Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald) January 11, 2014
While some focused on the role on the media in enhancing what they saw as a tarnished legacy.
— Charles Edward Frith (@charlesfrith) January 12, 2014
However, regardless of the world’s reaction to his death, it is the next generation of Israeli and Palestinians that will feel the effects of Sharon’s actions most fiercely.
It is with this thought that we start our first theme for 2014: Conflict. In a two part series, Lisanne Oldekamp and Sofie Ejdrup Larsen examine the lives of the young people on both sides of the Gaza conflict with very divergent conclusions.
In Lisanne’s article, The Singing Rocket, the problems Palestinian children face on a day to day basis is juxtaposed with the arrival and hope shown by a new star, Mohammed Assaf winner of the 2013 edition of Arab Idol.
Last year Palestinian children got the chance to see that demonstrating, hunger striking, and stone throwing are not the only ways to get their message across. Next to the many posters of martyrs in the village, the poster of a new hero, alive and kicking, has become a common feature in the streets of Palestine.
From the other side of the Gaza Strip, Sofie’s article An Army of Kids looks at the militarisation of Israeli youth and the potentially damaging effect this is having on their upbringing and overall world view.
Since everybody has to do it, doing one’s military service is generally perceived as a ‘collective duty’ by the Israelis and has become a more or less integrated part of most people’s lives. Like one of our sources, a soldier in the Marine Corps, stated: “I feel like it’s my turn to watch over the others back. They did it for me then, now it’s my turn. I can defend myself with my gun, but how are the old people gonna defend themselves?”
As our first two ‘Conflict’ articles depict, however Ariel Sharon’s past is remembered, it is the future of both communities that means the most to the young people of the Middle East.