Israel education minister defends ‘gay conversion therapy’

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Rafi Peretz was appointed Israel’s education minister in June

Israeli Education Minister Rafi Peretz has said he believes so-called “gay conversion therapy” can work, triggering widespread condemnation.

“I think it’s possible,” Mr Peretz, an Orthodox rabbi, told Israel’s Channel 12 TV channel. He added that he had “a very deep familiarity with the issue”.

PM Benjamin Netanyahu said such remarks were “unacceptable”. Other politicians and gay groups also voiced criticism.

“Gay conversion therapy” has been widely discredited around the world.

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The practice attempts to change an individual’s sexual orientation through psychological, spiritual and sometimes physical means.

What did Mr Peretz say?

“I think that it is possible to convert [someone’s sexual orientation],” Mr Peretz said on Saturday.

“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 person 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,” Mr Peretz said.

He later attempted to clarify his comments, saying he did not intend that gay children must be sent to “conversion therapy”, the Jerusalem Post reports.

How did Israel react to Mr Peretz’s comments?

Mr Netanyahu said: “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.”

The prime minister said he had personally spoken to Mr Peretz, a leading member of the ultranationalist United Right alliance, to express his criticism.

Nitzan Horowitz, who leads the left-wing Meretz party, said “gay conversion therapy” was a dangerous practice which causes extremely severe circumstances for youths, including suicide”.

Israel’s LGBT Task Force, the Aguda, called for the resignation of Mr Peretz.

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