TEL AVIV – Justice Minister Amir Ohana, who is Israel’s first openly gay minister, slammed Luxembourg’s prime minister, who is also gay, for boycotting an Israeli event in protest over an anti-gay comment made by Israel’s education minister while at the same time welcoming Iran’s foreign minister, who has defended the execution of gay Iranians.
Prime Minister Xavier Bettel said he refused to attend a farewell dinner for the Israeli ambassador, Simona Frankel, in protest of comments by Israel’s education minister over the weekend seemingly endorsing “conversion therapy” for homosexuals.
In a tweet, Ohana noted that Rabbi Rafi Peretz’s comments were “denounced and strongly condemned by many,” including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, but wondered why Bettel did not apply the same standard to officials from Iran, which routinely executes gays in public squares.
“Honorable Prime Minister of Luxembourg, Xavier Bettel, Yesterday, you boycotted an Israeli event due to an inappropriate comment made by an Israeli minister regarding conversion therapy. That comment was denounced and strongly condemned by many, including PM Netanyahu,” Ohana wrote.
He posted a photo of Bettel shaking hands with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif and asked if Bettel was “aware of how conversion therapy looks like in the Islamic Republic of Iran.”
He also attached a second image of a news report in which Zarif defended Iran’s policy of killing gays. Zarif said at the time, “Our society has moral principles, and according to these principles we live. These are moral principles regarding the behavior of people in general. And that’s because the law is upheld and you abide by laws.”
With your permission, I have a question: when you shook hands with @Zarif – were you aware of how conversion therapy looks like in the Islamic Republic of Iran?
Amir Ohana, Israel’s Minister of Justice (and openly gay, btw).
— אמיר אוחנה (@AmirOhana) July 16, 2019
U.S. Ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell, who is also gay, tweeted that he ” totally agree[s] with my friend Amir Ohana … we all benefit from his courage.”
When Zarif made his comments defending the death penalty, Grenell slammed Zarif for “violating basic UN principles.”
“Criminalizing homosexuality violates the [UN] Declaration [of Human Rights], plain and simple,” he said.
In an interview broadcast Saturday, Peretz said he had in the past suggested that religious students who came forward as homosexuals try “therapy,” which was interpreted to mean “conversion therapy.”
His comments were roundly condemned and he later clarified them, saying that when “students contacted me and asked for guidance, I referred them to professionals at their request and saw it was possible.”
“I did not say I support conversion therapy,” he added.
On Monday, the education minister reiterated his stance that he never condoned conversion therapy, saying he “utterly opposes” it.
“When asked about the subject [in the interview] I said that during my many years as an educator I was approached on several occasions on issues of sexual orientation. I always listened attentively to the difficulties brought before me and sometimes suggested consultations with professionals,” Peretz said.
“However I never turned a cold shoulder or suggested conversion therapy, which I oppose utterly,” he added.
“I know conversion therapy is wrong and grave,” he continued. “This is my unequivocal position. I understand that this is an invasive treatment that is unsuitable for the human psyche, causes those treated more suffering than relief, and can even put peoples lives in peril and cause suicidal tendencies.”
“I never thought, and certainly did not say, that such therapy should be introduced into the education system,” wrote Peretz.
However, he added, “It is the right of those with same-sex orientation to seek and find an attentive ear and help from professionals in a respectful and loving manner, and that is what I meant in the interview.”