Israel’s Education Minister: Gay Conversion Therapy ‘Possible,’ Palestinians ‘Shouldn’t Vote’



Israel’s new education minister Rafi Peretz said in an interview Saturday that it is “possible” to perform conversion therapy, claiming he has done so in the past.

Netanyahu calls remarks ‘unacceptable,’ says Israel’s schools will accept all students regardless of sexual orientation.

Education Minister and Bayit Yehudi leader Rabbi Rafi Peretz caused a firestorm of protest Saturday night after stating he believes the highly controversial practice of “gay conversion therapy” – trying to change a gay individual’s sexual orientation – is effective.


FILE PHOTO: Israel’s Education Minister Rafi Peretz arrives to attend the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem June 24, 2019. Menahem Kahana/Pool via REUTERS/File Photo
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Peretz said that he himself has participated in providing such “treatment” to gay individuals in the past and that his approach is for the person in question “to get to know himself better and then decide” on their sexual orientation.


The Health Ministry said in 2014 there was no scientific evidence that gay conversion, which includes counseling and even electro-shock therapy, is effective and said it can cause harm to those exposed to it.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu strongly criticized his education minister for his remarks, and Peretz was assailed by opposition politicians and NGOs many of whom called on the prime minister to fire him.

The chairman of the Israel Association of Psychiatrists underlined in response to the minister’s comments that there is no therapy that can change a person’s sexual orientation.

Speaking during an interview with Channel 12 broadcast Saturday night, Peretz was asked about his attitude LGBTs and specifically his opinion on conversion therapy.

“I think that it is possible to convert [someone’s sexual orientation],” said the education minister when asked about the issue.

“I can tell you that I have deep familiarity on the issue of education, and I have also done it [conversion therapy].”

Asked how he would address an individual who told him he was gay, Peretz said “I would first of all embrace him, then I said let us think, let us learn, let us consider. The goal is that first of all he gets to know himself better and then he can decide.”

Peretz also said in his interview that he would continue the funding for the Israel Gay Youth movement (IGY) but that he could block the group from sending representatives to schools and would have to examine its “messaging” before deciding.

Netanyahu issued a statement saying he had personally spoken with Peretz to convey his criticism.

”The remarks of the Minister of Education regarding the LGBT community are unacceptable and do not reflection the position of the government under my leadership,” said Netanyahu.

“I spoke to Rabbi Rafi Peretz this evening and made it clear to him that the Israeli educational system will continue to accept all Jewish children whoever they are and without any difference based on sexual orientation.”

Meretz leader Nitzan Horowitz said in response that homosexual conversion therapy was a dangerous practice “which causes extremely sever circumstances for youths, including suicide,” saying that the concept was not only irresponsible but endangered people’s lives.

“Rafi Peretz, what are you proud about? That you erased the identity of young men and women? That you caused people to feel that their sexual orientation is a sickness? That they have no place to be who they are and to love who they want?” demanded the Meretz leader.

“You are not fitting to be responsible for the future of our children… I call on Netanyahu to fire Minister Rafi Peretz immediately.”

Chairman of the Association of Psychiatrists in Israel Tzvi Fishel said he was “embarrassed and worried” that Israel’s education minister not only spoke out in favor of conversion therapy but had participated in it as well.

“As the the Israel Medical Association, the Association of Psychiatrists in Israel, and many other  doctors associations in Israel and around the world have determined, 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 be scientifically proven to be ineffective but represent a danger and cause severe damage to the psyche of the individual and feelings of failure which are likely to lead to suicide,” saying that Peretz’s comments endangered lives.

Blue and White co-leader Yair Lapid said in a brief comment on Twitter that “Until Rafi Peretz undergoes conversion therapy for his benighted and crazy opinions he cannot continue to serve as education minister.”

Labor leader Amir Peretz responded that the education minister’s statement was inhumane and that everyone should have a right to love, marry and build a family with whomever they choose.

“In the upcoming election, the people of Israel will convert the Education Ministry out of the hands of the extreme Right,” Peretz said.

The Israel Gay Youth (IGY) movement, which receives funding from the education ministry, said its staff “were in shock” at the minister’s comments but would not be commenting further for the moment.

Peretz later attempted to clarify his controversial statements about gay conversion therapy, saying he did not intend that gay children must be sent to conversion therapy.

“A few clarifications about the interview that was broadcast this evening,” Peretz said.

“1. I did not claim that a child must be sent for conversion therapy.

“2. During my years as an educator, I met with students who felt terrible distress about their sexual orientation and chose to use professionals to change their orientation. What I said in the interview came from my personal experiences with those cases.

“3. The education system in Israel under my leadership will continue to accept all children of Israel as they are, regardless of their sexual orientation. That’s how I made it clear in the interview.”

The comments by Peretz come just a couple days after he had been slammed for comments he made comparing intermarriage to “a second Holocaust.”

“We [have] lost six million Jews in this way [due to assimilation] since the Holocaust,” he said.

“I absolutely condemn the remarks by the education minister concerning conversion therapy,” Justice Minister Amir Ohana said in response to Peretz. Ohana became the first gay minister in the Knesset in June.

“The Likud government, the national-liberal movement won’t give her hand to conversion therapy,” stated Ohana. “The serious studies in the world of psychology are united around the position that not only can they not ‘convert’ the sexual orientation – it’s dangerous and can cause pain and suffering to youth and even lead them to suicide.”

“Education minister, the youth of the entire State of Israel and yes, also of the national-religious sector, are looking to you,” added Ohana. “LGBTQ youth commit suicide three times as often as their percentage of the population. This is a matter of saving lives. Your clarification is important, but not sufficient. Learn the subject in depth, and review it.”

Gil Hoffman and Maayan Hoffman contributed to this report.

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