No one with an Israeli visa in their passport is welcome on a New York Times-sponsored tour of Iran, part of its luxury line of Times Journeys.
Although the tour includes a stop in Hamadan, where travelers will be able to “explore the biblical tomb of Ester and Mordechai, regarded as the most important pilgrimage site for the Jewish community in Iran,” Israelis don’t qualify.
According to the New York-based Algemeiner Journal, representatives of the tour stated on the phone that “anyone with a page in their passport with an Israeli visa will be declined.”
Representatives also suggested that travelers with the group keep their Jewish or gay identity under wraps.
Algemeiner asked the Times representative, who identified himself as “Kevin,” whether it would be okay to notify people during the trip of one’s Jewish or gay identity. Kevin reportedly replied, “I don’t know if you’d want to tell that to everyone you met; if that would be the best idea.”
“That might be something to hold back and ask your experts on the trip,” he said.
The article also questions whether offering this sort of trip that idealizes Iran as a land of beauty and wonder wouldn’t in some way compromise the Times’ journalistic integrity when it has to report on Irani crimes or calls for tougher Iran sanctions.
The Times website is calling the trip “Tales from Persia,” and speaks of “a new trendy joie de vivre” in Tehran and the “colorful bazaars” of Kermanshah.
It doesn’t speak of “its sworn desire to eradicate the Jewish State” or “its public lashings and flogging of women,” the Algemeiner notes.
The US State Department website, in fact, states: “The United States has long-standing concerns over Iran’s nuclear program, sponsorship of terrorism, and human rights record.”
The 13-day excursion costs nearly $7,000 and includes “excellent insights into [the] life and accomplishments” of the Ayatollah Khomeini offered by expert guide Elaine Sciolino, a New York Times writer who was on the plane with the Ayatollah “when he returned to exile to make his revolution.”
The Algemeiner also inquired about the security of travelers, given that the State Department reports that the U.S. government does not have diplomatic relations with the Islamic Republic of Iran and “cannot provide protection” to U.S. citizens.