Israeli Education Minister In Hot Water Over Gay Remarks

  • Prime Minister Netanyahu condemns declaration, but gives no sign that he intends to dismiss a minister.
  • The comments led hundreds of people into the streets of Tev Aviv to protest and demand his resignation.
  • This was the second controversy created by Peretz in just one month. Last week, he was criticized, mainly abroad, for qualifying the marriage between Jews and non-Jews.

Israel’s head of Education became the target of protests after saying he believes in the effectiveness of homosexual conversion therapies. Prime Minister Netanyahu condemned the declaration but gives no sign that he intends to dismiss a minister. Protests in Israel on Sunday heighten pressure for education minister Rafi Peretz to be fired.

Rafael “Rafi” Peretz (born 7 January 1956) is an Israeli Orthodox rabbi and politician. A former military officer who served as the Chief Military Rabbi of the Israel Defense Forces, he is currently leader of the Jewish Home party and a member of the Knesset for the United Right alliance.

In an interview with a television station on Saturday, Peretz was asked if he believed the controversial therapy could actually turn gays into heterosexuals. “I think you can,” the minister replied. “I can tell you that I have deep knowledge about education and I have already applied it.”

Peretz, who heads the small Union of Right-wing Parties, a religious and nationalist platform, said that one student once approached him saying he was gay. The minister said he hugged the boy, treated him gently, and promised to “help him understand himself so he could decide on his own.”

The comments led hundreds of people into the streets of Tev Aviv to protest and demand his resignation. The statement was also criticized by several sectors of Israeli policy, including the country’s own prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, and other members of the government.

Netanyahu, who included Peretz’s party in the governing coalition after the April 9 elections, condemned the statement. “The comments of the education minister on the gay community are not acceptable and do not reflect the position of the government,” he said in a statement. He said he has already spoken to Peretz, who, according to Netanyahu, “clarified his statements and ensured that Israel’s education system will continue to accept all the children of Israel as they are, regardless of their sexual orientation.”

LGBT (or GLBT) is an initialism that stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender. In use since the 1990s, the term is an adaptation of the initialism LGB, which was used to replace the term gay in reference to the LGBT community beginning in the mid-to-late 1980s. Activists believed that the term gay community did not accurately represent all those to whom it referred.

The comment by Peretz led protesters to dismiss him as a “homophobic racist.” Despite the protests and criticism of his administration members, the prime minister gave no sign that he intends to dismiss Peretz.

In the same interview on Saturday, the minister downplayed a reporter’s comment that Israel could carry out an “apartheid” if it annexed the occupied West Bank without giving the Palestinians the right to vote in Israel’s general election. “They have no right to vote,” he said.

This was the second controversy created by Peretz in just one month. Last week, he was criticized, mainly abroad, for qualifying the marriage between Jews and non-Jews.

In recent years, Israel has become a major tourist destination for the LGBT community. The gay parade in Tel Aviv attracts more than 200,000 people every year. Homosexuals can openly enter the Armed Forces and politics. Many popular artists are admittedly gay.

Homosexual conversion therapies are widely considered to be unfounded and potentially harmful to young people, including by the Israeli Ministry of Health. But Israel’s reputation as a liberal and welcoming country to LGBTs is seen by many as a disguise to stifle repeated violations of Palestinian rights.

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Doris Mkwaya

I am a journalist, with more than 12 years of experience as a reporter, author, editor, and journalism lecturer." I've worked as a reporter, editor and journalism lecturer, and am very enthusiastic about bringing what I've learned to this site. 

 


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