Israel Education Minister Rafi Peretz, head of the Jewish Home party, was an Air Force helicopter pilot before later becoming IDF Chief Rabbi. But today Peretz, is a political rookie, which is why he naively believed that his honesty in a television interview ahead of the upcoming election would be presented fairly in the final editing. And so it was that of the three hour-long interview he gave to Channel 12 News reporter Dana Weiss, just 15 minutes were aired last Saturday, and of that, all people will remember are his remarks on conversion therapy for homosexuals.
To be fair, Peretz didn’t even hint that anyone was being coerced into such therapy. On the contrary. He said that he referred gays who approached him to professional help, at their request, “and I saw that this [conversion therapy] is possible.” Peretz then added that he “respects, appreciates and loves everyone, regardless of their sexual orientation.” In a letter to party members, Peretz wrote: “Don’t be confused, they aren’t attacking what I said, but what I represent. What we have here is a fight over the right to think differently.”
Rabbi Peretz’s letter came after a blitz of condemnations, starting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who reprimanded his Minister of Education, insisting that “conversion therapy is unacceptable.” Israel’s openly-gay Justice Minister Amir Ohana said that Peretz’s view “does not represent the opinion of the Israeli government, and this is not the Likud’s way. What requires conversion and therapy are prejudice and ignorance.”
All across the political spectrum, Peretz is now being labeled a homophobe, bigot and intolerant man who still lives in the Dark Ages. Petitions are circulating calling for his resignation from the Ministry of Education, and social media is drenched with slurs and insults against him. To give just one example out of many, Gadi Taub, a former left-winger who became popular among conservatives, wrote on Facebook: “Rabbi Rafi, move away … you are an extremist, even in the eyes of many right-wingers … you are going to hurt the right-wing bloc. This is the time … to let someone else take the lead … you are the wrong person, in the wrong place, at the wrong time … let go.”
Nor are the protests limited to Peretz’s personal view on conversion therapy. On the contrary, the whole incident is being exploited to further the LGBT agenda. Taking center stage of late have been transgender kids. Seizing the opportunity, national television hosts Geula Even and Yaron London hurried to the studio to interview Cohen Hemo, who was accompanied by his supportive mother. The 18-year-old describes himself as “gender queer,” which he explained by saying, “I am neither a man nor a woman, I am both and neither and I am all at once, whatever I feel like.” What was so revealing in this interview was the reaction of the hosts, who were smiling and applauding in a way that conveyed total acceptance, not of the person, but of the phenomenon itself.
And this complete change in thinking is nothing short of a conversion, which brings us back to Justice Minister Ohana, who clearly spoke of the need to convert all those who still cling to a biblical sense of morality. And this means that the present skirmish over Peretz’s remarks, as both he and Ohana have admitted, is really about who has the right to convert the other side, and who doesn’t. Without a doubt, Israeli society today delegitimizes Peretz’s right to preach his views.