Gay pride - Olivier Fitoussi - July 28, 2011
Participants of the gay pride parade in Jerusalem, July 28, 2011 Photo by Olivier Fitoussi
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Mental health experts, educators and members of Israel's gay community are protesting the use in the mental health curriculum in a number of academic institutions of a textbook they say presents anti-homosexual positions. The most recent edition of "Prakim nivharim b'psichiatria" ("Select Chapters in Psychiatry") was published in 2010 and is part of the curriculum in universities, colleges and teachers' colleged. An Internet petition circulated by the book's detractors demands its removal from the curriculum of clinical programs unless and until its position on homosexuality is revised. A day after the petition was posted it had more than 500 signatures.

One of the book's chapters states that homosexuality is a personal choice and claims that the theory of Charles Socarides, according to which homosexuality is an emotional disorder that can be cured through therapy, is "the most accepted approach today." The chapter was written by Prof. Shmuel Tiano, former director of the Geha Psychiatric Hospital in Petah Tikva.

Tiano describes homosexuality as a "symptom," and that psychotherapy can bring about the integration of "this borderline personality" and "the disappearance of the symptom." It also described homosexuality and transgender identity among children as a "disorder" that should be treated to enable children to develop "normal sexual development."

In conversation with Haaretz, Tiano said the chapter is a historical survey and does not represent current thinking on the issues.

Eight years ago Gidi Rubinstein, a psychotherapist who teaches at the Netanya Academic College and whose clinical practice specializes in gay and bisexual clients, published an article in the column in the gay and lesbian monthly "Hazman Havarod" criticizing the book. Tiano contacted him to discuss his concerns. Rubinstein said he expected his objections would be addressed in the 2010 edition but they were not.

Rubinstein was particularly critical of the platform he said the book gives to the views of Socarides. Tiano said the characterizations of homosexuality as a "disorder" or "symptom" in the chapter are simply descriptions of obsolete views. "I explicitly wrote in the chapter that it is not a disorder."

"In its current edition, the chapter on homosexuality not only constitutes a declaration of homophobia, but it educates future therapists and educators to be homophobic," Rubinstein said. The fact that the book is published by a university press, Dyonon, and that it was compiled by four leading figures in the psychiatry field gives the book added importance. Avi Chamo, the CEO of Dyonon said he was proud of the book, which is in its fifth edition and is a bestseller. He said the book was designed to survey a range of views and promote academic discourse.

"There is a word or two that needs to be proofread," Tiano acknowledged. "In advance of the next edition of the book, I commit to carry out additional proofreading and to change the two or three words that have to be changed in the chapter."

'Unfortunate'

Chen Langer of the Israeli National LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender) Task Force, known as the Aguda, said: "It is unfortunate that a book is taught in Israeli universities that still defines, whether intentionally, unintentionally or out of negligence, any sexual orientation as a medical diagnosis in and of itself that requires 'diagnosis' or, God help us, any kind of 'treatment.' Langer said the Aguda wants the Council for Higher Education to order the book's immediate removal from university and college reading lists and libraries.

Chamo said in a response that the book's title, "Select Chapters in Psychiatry," indicates its contents - a "review of myriad theories in theoretical and clinical psychiatry. In my humble opinion, professionals in the fields of education, mental health, social work and academia (as the petition's signers claim to be) should be familiar with all the existing theories" in order to promote professional discussion and enable clients to make educated decisions about their treatment." Chamo said Dyonon would refer any professional errors to the authors and make corrections as needed.

The Council for Higher Education said in a response that under the provisions of the laws governing academic freedom the individual academic institutions, not the council, decide on which texts they teach.

Read this article in Hebrew.