Abstract: Exclusion and Inclusion of Gay Arab-Palestinian Men in Israel (Society for Social Work and Research 27th Annual Conference - Social Work Science and Complex Problems: Battling Inequities + Building Solutions)

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646P Exclusion and Inclusion of Gay Arab-Palestinian Men in Israel

Sunday, January 15, 2023
Phoenix C, 3rd Level (Sheraton Phoenix Downtown)
* noted as presenting author
Yasmin Aboud-Halabi, PhD, Assistant Professor, Max Stern Yezreel Valley College, Israel
Dassi Postan-Aizik, PhD, Assistant Professor, Max Stern Yezreel Valley College, Israel
Background and Purpose: Gay Arab-Palestinian men living in Israel are situated in the intersection of multiple systems of oppression. This population experience life as a national-ethnic minority in Israel, while struggling against homophobia and toxic masculinity both within the Arab-Palestinian society and in the wider Israeli context. While there is abundant research regarding the experiences and challenges of gay man in Israel, they almost exclusively relate to the Jewish population. Social work research regarding the identities and experiences of LGBTQ Arabs in other countries around the world is also sparse. The current literature focuses mostly on LGBTQ Muslims living in other socio-political contexts such as in religious Muslim countries or Western countries, where they reside as immigrants in modern-liberal societies. The objective of this exploratory study is to address this gap by exploring the social exclusion and inclusion dynamics of gay Arab-Palestinian men in Israel.

Methods: This qualitative study builds on data from in-depth interviews with 20 men who self-identify as gay Arab and/or Palestinian. We employed purposive sampling to capture the experiences of study participants from different groups of Arab-Palestinian society in Israel (Muslims, Christians, and Druze). The data were analyzed using Atlas-ti software and informed by a constructivist grounded theory approach, which promotes deeper understanding of people's social, political, and experiential realities.

Results: The findings indicate that study participants experienced social exclusion in three main spheres: (a) in the family sphere participants were initially rejected by parents, siblings and the wider traditional family, however in some cases this changed as family members re-negotiated their place on the exclusion-inclusion continuum; (b) in the structural sphere participants described discrimination by formal institutions and in informal settings both within the Arab-Palestinian society and in the wider context of the mainstream Israeli society; (c) the national-political sphere relates to the seeming contradictions between participant's struggle against homophobia and solidarity with the Palestinian people. Study participants reported the use of several coping strategies interchangeably. Some felt compelled to reject one their identities, others lived what they referred to as a "double life" in various times or spaces. Still, some participants created their own multi-dimensional coping approach accepting the complexities of seemingly dichotomous identities and challenging assumptions regarding their sexual orientation.

Conclusions and Implications: This study explores the unheard voices of young Arab/Palestinian gay men in Israel and presents the participants' experiences in a cultural, national, and local context. The study findings challenge both Western conventions and traditional Arab assumptions towards Arab-Palestinian gay man. The study aims at narrowing the gap in research. In addition to its theoretical contribution, it has the potential to promote further research for the development of sociopolitical contextual interventions and create inclusionary policies for Arab-Palestinian gay man.