Education Minister and far-right religious leader from The Jewish Home (HaBayit HaYehudi) political party, Rabbi Rafi Peretz, ignited a firestorm of protest Saturday night, July 13, when he told a Channel 12 television interviewer that he believes the obscurantist practice of “gay conversion therapy” – trying to change a gay individual’s sexual orientation – is effective. Peretz said that he himself has participated in providing such “treatment” to gay individuals in the past.
The comments from Peretz, a former chief rabbi of the Israeli military, sparked an uproar from political opponents and led to rebukes from Hadash lawmakers.
Reacting to those comments, Hadash MK Aida Touma-Sliman said, “The elimination of democratic values by necessity results in the elimination of civil rights.” MK Ofer Cassif (Hadash) tweeted in response Peretz’s remarks: “You are not minister of education; you are minister of darkness.” Cassif called for Peretz to resign his position.
Ohad Khizki, the director of the Aguda – Israel’s LGBTQ Task Force, called on Peretz to resign. “Israeli children mustn’t be exposed to the poison that is being disseminated by those who pretend to engage in education and values,” he said in a statement.
Chair of the Association of Psychiatrists in Israel, Dr. Tzvi Fishel, said he was “embarrassed and worried” that the education minister not only spoke out in favor of conversion therapy but had actively participated in it as well. “As the Israel Medical Association, the Association of Psychiatrists in Israel, and many other professionals associations in Israel and around the world have established, there is no therapy that can convert the sexual orientation of any person,” said Fishel.
“Conversion therapies that pretend to change sexual orientation have not only been proven scientifically to be ineffective, but represent a real danger as they can cause severe damage to the psyche of the individual and feelings of failure which are likely to lead to suicide,” and concluded that Peretz’s comments endangered lives.