Photo Credit: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90
Former and current education ministers Naftali Bennett and Rafi Peretz, June 26, 2019.

On Saturday night, Habayit Hayehudi chairman Rabbi Rafi Peretz caused nothing short of a Tsunami when he told Channel 12 News: “Conversion treatments are things that can be done, and I’ve done it, too.”

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New Right chairman Naftali Bennett did not miss a beat and jumped on the opportunity to cut his successor at the education ministry who is his opponent in the race to lead a united rightwing faction. Bennett twitted Sunday morning: “Israeli society consists of a variety of different hues, and no one has to convert anyone else. We accept each person as he is. The statements that were made do not represent the majority of the national-religious public, which is opposed to the obsessive war against the LGBTQ. Human beings are loved for being created in the image of their Maker. Every human and every image.”

The statement was the second effort in a row on the part of the Habayit Hayehudi raw chairman to place his foot in his mouth, having only last week compared intermarriage to the Holocaust. In both cases, it didn’t really matter whether Peretz was right or wrong – it only mattered that he upset not just his natural political enemies, but his potential supporters well inside the religious-Zionist camp.

Conversion therapy is the practice of attempting to change an individual’s sexual orientation from homosexual to heterosexual using psychological or spiritual interventions. Advocates and proponents provide anecdotal reports of people who claim success in becoming heterosexual, but medical, scientific, and government organizations in the US and the UK have doubted the validity, efficacy and ethics of the endeavor. The American Psychiatric Association (APA) opposes psychiatric treatment “based upon the assumption that homosexuality per se is a mental disorder.” It’s the same APA which as late as 1973 listed homosexuality as a mental disorder.

The practice is banned in many countries, and has been blamed for mental suffering, including suicide, on the part of patients.

PM Netanyahu condemned Peretz for his remarks, but did not fire him, as LGBTQ demonstrators demanded Saturday night. Peretz received condemnations from key rightwing politicians, such as Minister of Regional Cooperation Tzachi Hanegbi.

Peretz issued a clarification, saying, “I did not claim that a boy or a girl should be sent for conversion treatments.” He only recalled his experience as a teacher with students who were suffering from their homosexual tendencies and were helped by experts.

No one listened.

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