Israeli Education Minister Rafi Peretz appears to have backtracked on his comments about so-called conversion therapy.
In a letter to school principals, Peretz, an Orthodox Rabbi, said he had never ‘offered conversion therapy’ to any students.
‘I know conversion therapy is wrong and severe, that’s my unequivocal stance.
‘I realise it’s an invasive treatment that doesn’t suit human nature, causes suffering more than help, and can endanger lives by avoidable suicide.
He concluded: ‘I never thought, and certainly haven’t said, that this kind of therapy should be part of the educational system, and certainly have no intention of doing so.’
What did Rafi Peretz originally say?
Peretz’s statement is in marked contrast to comments he made during an interview last Friday.
Asked if he thought conversion therapy worked by Israeli TV station, Channel 12, he said, ‘I think that it is possible to convert [a person’s sexual orientation],’ he said. I can tell you that I have deep familiarity on the issue of education, and I have also done this.’
He described how he had acted when a gay man told him about his sexual inclinations.
‘First of all, I embraced him. I said very warm things to him. I told him, “Let’s think. Let’s study. And let’s contemplate.”
‘The objective is first of all for him to know himself well… and then he will decide.’
Peretz comments widely criticized
Those comments provoked condemnation from LGBTI rights groups. Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also criticized them.
‘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.’
Opposition parties called for the minister, who is also Chief Rabbi to the Israeli military, to be fired.
Some counsellors and religious groups employ the controversial practice of so-called ‘conversion therapy’ to try and convert people from being gay and bisexual towards heterosexuality. There is no scientific evidence it works.
Furthermore, studies have found such treatments can cause great mental health problems for those subjected to them. Many respected psychiatric associations have condemned the practice and several states in the US and countries have banned it being administered to minors.
In a statement to GSN, local Israeli LGBT advocacy group The Agunda said, ‘We are happy common sense has defeated bigotry and the minister of education has retracted his dangerous statement, understanding there is no need to convert anyone.
‘This is not enough – we expect to see the minister’s words translate into actions. We have demanded the minister to sign the executive order regarding the LGBT community, an executive order that is written and only waiting for his signature.’