Justice Minister Amir Ohana took Luxembourg’s prime minister to task Tuesday over his boycott of a farewell dinner for the Israeli ambassador a day earlier.
Prime Minister Xavier Bettel, who is gay, said he did so in protest of comments by Israel’s education minister over the weekend in support of the practice of “conversion therapy” for homosexuals.
But while Ohana, who is also gay, noted that Rabbi Rafi Peretz’s comments were “denounced and strongly condemned by many,” including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, he also wondered why Bettel did not take such an approach with the leaders of Iran — a country known for its severe punishments for gays, from lashings to executions.
Posting a photo of Bettel shaking hands with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif, Ohana asked if Bettel was “aware of how conversion therapy looks like in the Islamic Republic of Iran.”
He attached a second screenshot of a news report in which Zarif defended Iran’s death penalty for homosexuals.
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.
— אמיר אוחנה (@AmirOhana) July 16, 2019
According to a Channel 12 news report Monday, Bettel informed outgoing Ambassador Simona Frankel that, while he respected her personally, he would not be able to attend an official Israeli event as long as a government minister openly supports gay conversion therapy.
Bettel is considered a friend of Israel and visited the Jewish state twice in recent years.
In an interview aired on Israeli television on Saturday, Peretz said he had referred religious homosexuals to undertake the “therapy,” which is viewed by psychologists as dangerous and harmful to the mental health of individuals who undergo it.
Peretz was roundly rebuked for his comments — including by Netanyahu and several ministers — and numerous members of the opposition called for his resignation.
He later claimed his remarks had been misunderstood and misrepresented, and specified that when “students contacted me and asked for guidance, I referred them to professionals at their request and saw it was possible,” but “I did not say I support conversion therapy.”
In Iran homosexuality is a taboo topic. Gays and lesbians there can face lashings or death sentences if convicted. Human rights groups estimate that over 4,000 gays have been executed since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.
The Islamic Republic does recognize transgender people, however. The Shiite theocracy’s founder, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, issued a religious decree, or fatwa, 30 years ago calling for respect of transgender people, opening the way for official support for gender transition surgery. Still, they remain largely ostracized by society.