Israel education minister rows back support for gay cure therapy

Members of the LGBT community hold a banner reading in Hebrew 'A homophobic Racist Has to Quit' during a rally against Israel's Education Minister Rafi Peretz following his remarks on gay conversion therapy, in the Israeli coastal city of Tel Aviv on July 14, 2019.

Israeli education minister Rafi Peretz has claimed he opposes gay cure therapy, after LGBT+ protesters demanded his resignation over inflammatory comments supporting it.

The far-right politician, whose Jewish Home party is part of a pact with prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, stirred anger after claiming that “it is possible to convert” someone’s sexual orientation.

In an interview with Israel’s Channel 12 over the weekend, the former teacher had claimed: “I have a very deep understanding of this kind of education and I have done this [to students],” explaining: “The objective is first of all for him to know himself well… and then he will decide.”

However, in a letter on Tuesday (July 16) the minister reversed his stance, claiming he now believes that conversion therapy does not work and that he never attempted to cure anyone.

Gay cure therapy is ‘invalid and wrong,’ says minister who supported it three days before

According to The Times of Israel, he explained: “During my years as an educator I was approached on several occasions about issues of sexual preference. I always listened carefully to the challenges brought before me and sometimes urged consultations with professionals.

“I know conversion therapy is invalid and wrong. This is my unequivocal position.

“I understand that this is an invasive treatment that is harmful to the human psyche, causes those treated with it more suffering than relief and can even put people’s lives in jeopardy and lead to suicidal tendencies.”

Israeli Education Minister Rafi Peretz arrives to the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem on July 14, 2019

Israeli Education Minister Rafi Peretz arrives to the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem on July 14, 2019. (RONEN ZVULUN/AFP/Getty)

“I never suggested conversion therapy, which I oppose utterly.”

Peretz added that the education ministry “will continue to accept all Israeli girls and boys in Israel as they are, without regard to sexual orientation.”

Israel education minister faces resignation calls over gay cure row

His comments had escalated into an international row, with Luxembourg PM Xavier Bettel, one of just three openly gay world currently leaders in office, boycotting an event at the Israeli embassy in protest.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also made clear Peretz’s remarks were “unacceptable”.

He made clear: “The education minister’s remarks regarding the pride community are unacceptable to me and do not reflect the position of the government that I head.”

LGBT+ group A Wider Bridge has called for the minister to be sacked.

The group said: “Conversion therapy is a widely discredited practice by all major health organizations that brings great harm to LGBTQ people, particularly LGBTQ youth, and increases subjects’ risk of drug use, depression, and suicide, among other damaging effects.

“That Peretz made this assertion as the head of the Education Ministry – responsible for equipping the next generation of Israelis with the knowledge and tools to build a stronger, more inclusive future for their country – is all the more dangerous.

“We are proud to support our partners in Israel who are on the frontlines of confronting conversion therapy and working to advance LGBTQ curriculum and visibility.

“We call on Benjamin Netanyahu to fire Rafi Peretz, and appoint a new Education Minister that will make a commitment to supporting Israeli LGBTQ youth.”