An Israeli MP has claimed that homosexuality is “almost nonexistent” in the Arab world.
Waleed Taha, a member of the Knesset for the Arab-majority Joint List, made the bizarre suggestion while opposing a bill that would ban conversion therapy in Israel.
According to Ynet, Taha claimed that the bill is “particularly problematic” because it goes against the views of “the vast majority of the society that elected [him].”
He told Israeli state broadcaster Kan that the “phenomenon of gays is almost nonexistent in Arab society”.
Taha insisted: “The issue is not debated in Arab society [and] if it exists, it is on a very small scale, and those who suffer from it are in no rush to identify themselves,”
The politician added: “Homosexuals have the right to undergo treatment to change their sexual character… this law prevents them from [receiving] treatment that would bring them back to normal.”
His claim that homosexuality does not exist in the Arab world will be news to many queer Arabs, who have existed just fine for quite some time.
The Times of Israel notes that thousands turned out to mourn after a well-known gay Palestinian ballet dancer, Ayman Safiah, drowned in May.
Rifts in Israeli government over conversion therapy bill
The bill banning conversion therapy, which passed an initial reading in the Knesset last week, has sparked conflict within Joint List.
The political alliance, comprised of smaller Arab parties, has had its future questioned after Joint List chief MK Ayman Odeh voted in favour of the ban, which was opposed by some of the other lawmakers.
The legislation also managed to cause a separate rift among prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s fragile governing coalition.
The ultra-Orthodox United Torah Judaism party, whom the PM is reliant on for support, responded furiously after another party in the alliance, Blue and White, voted for the bill alongside some rebels from Netanyahu’s Likud.
United Torah Judaism leader Yaakov Litzman raged: “Blue and White’s poor conduct, in violation of coalition discipline, is an open affront to our political partnership.
“Likud must decide whether it knows how to manage a coalition or if it is committing political suicide.”
The passage of the bill is still far from assured, as it still has to pass three readings and be approved by a Knesset committee before it becomes law.
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