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Israel's Education Minister Rafi Peretz
Israel's Education Minister Rafi Peretz
Image: Ronen Zvulun/Pool Photo/PA Images

Israel's education minister faces calls to resign over comments on 'gay conversion' therapy

Rafi Peretz’s latest controversial comments came in a television interview on Saturday.
Jul 15th 2019, 6:42 PM 12,918 41

ISRAEL’S EDUCATION MINISTER is facing calls to resign after revealing that he believes that gay people can be converted to become heterosexual through therapy.

Rafi Peretz’s comments in a television interview on Saturday are the latest controversial views voiced by the new minister, who leads a far-right party popular with Israeli settlers, and prompted hundreds of people to demonstrate in Tel Aviv last night.

Asked whether he was in favour of so-called conversion therapy and if he believed he could change a gay person, Peretz said: “I think you can, I think you can”.

“I can tell you that I have a deep knowledge of education, and I have done it too,” he said, before talking about a student who approached him and told him he was gay.

Peretz, who is also a rabbi, said he hugged the student, was kind to him and sought to help him “understand himself well and then decide on his own”.

Demonstrators at the Tel Aviv protest carried placards calling him a “homophobic racist”, a reference to comments made by the minister about Palestinians in the same interview.

“When an education minister says these kind of things it reflects his attitude and intentions toward the state education system,” one protester said.

“It takes us back to the dark ages.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who brought Peretz’s Union of Right Wing Parties into his government following a general election in April, also condemned the remarks.

“The education minister’s remarks about the gay community are not acceptable and do not reflect the stance of the government I head,” he said in a statement.

But Netanyahu also added that he had no intention of firing the under-fire minister as members of Israel’s opposition demanded.

Netanyahu said he had spoken with Peretz “who clarified his remarks and stressed the Israeli education system will continue to accept all of Israel’s children as they are, without any regard to their sexual orientation”.

Gay conversion therapy has been widely found to be unscientific and potentially damaging to young people, including by Israel’s health ministry.

Peretz caused further outrage earlier this month over reported comments to a cabinet meeting, when he reportedly told ministers that Jewish inter-marriage and assimilation, particularly in North America, were like a “second Holocaust”.

With reporting from - © AFP 2019.

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Stephen McDermott

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