Yacimovich Wants Name Nixed From Ads for Conference With Gay 'Conversion Therapy' Panel

Former Labor leader tells Jerusalem Conference organizers that homophobia, not homosexuality, is an illness in response to session on controversial 'therapy.'

Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis
Shelly Yachimovich
Shelly Yachimovich Credit: Hagai Frid
Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis

Labor MK Shelly Yacimovich has asked to have her name removed from advertisements for the 12th annual “Jerusalem Conference on Modernity and the State,” after a session on "conversion therapy for those with same-sex tendencies” was on the schedule of the event.

Yacimovich has not said whether she will still be attending the conference, but requested to be removed from ads promoting it.

"If there is something that needs to be cured it is homophobia, racism and the hatred of the other. Publicizing my name embarrasses me and my world view," Yachimovich said.

The former Labor party leader said she is scheduled to take part in a different session at the Jerusalem Conference, and has yet to confirm her participation - even though her name appears on the conference’s publicity material.

Yacimovich was meant to take part in a discussion on Israel's response to the unilateral declaration of a Palestinian state.

The 12th annual Jerusalem Conference next month is organized by the Besheva Newspaper, a Hebrew-language weekly owned by Israel National News. President Reuven Rivlin is also scheduled to attend and deliver the keynote speech, but he has yet to confirm his participation and said that he was not aware of the controversial session on conversion therapy, also known as reparative therapy.

A number of senior Israeli politicians are also set to attend the two-day conference, including Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein (Likud); MK Naftali Bennett (Habayit Hayehudi); and Labor chairman Isaac Herzog. None of them are scheduled to take part in the conversion therapy session on the conference’s second day, which is entitled: "Are conversion therapies a desirable solution for those with same-sex tendencies?"

Among those listed as participating in the session are educational psychologist Eliyahu Ackerman; Rabbi Aharon Harel of Kamoha – Gay Orthodox Jews; Bat Ami Neumeier Potashik of Bat Kol - The Religious Lesbian Organization; and Haaretz journalist Benny Ziffer.

In a letter Yacimovich sent to conference organizers on Saturday afternoon, the Labor MK wrote: "Conversion 'treatments' are an attempt to 'cure' people who are attracted to people of their own sex and gender, as if it was a defect or disease. These imaginary and false treatments in the hands of various and sundry charlatans stem from a primitive and dark world view. It is sad and worrying that in 2015 there is a need at all to explain that there is nothing wrong with attraction to members of your own sex, and the LGBT community are citizens with equal rights that there is no reason to cure them of anything."

In October 2014, Israel's Health Ministry issued a public warning against conversion therapies that aim to change sexual orientation from homosexual to heterosexual, saying there was no evidence that they work and that they could possibly do damage.

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