Described as a “Journey 2,500 years back in time to discover the ancient secrets of Persia on this 13-day itinerary incorporating some of most well preserved archaeological sites in the world,” this New York Times sponsored trip proclaims “Welcome to the once-forbidden land of Iran,” but only if you do not tell them your gay or a Jew.
First reported by the Jewish news outlet Algemeiner, “if you’re an Israeli, joining the ‘Tales of Persia,’ trip, ‘once-forbidden,’ is still forbidden, and letting anyone know you’re Jewish, or gay, isn’t particularly recommended, either.”
According to journalist David Bender, who called the toll-free number on the website, “a representative who gave her name as Megan hurriedly turned the call over to Kevin, who stated definitively that ‘…anyone with a page in their passport with an Israeli visa will be declined.'” Kevin also explained that it would not be “the best idea” to mention that you are gay or Jewish.
“If reports are accurate that the New York Times is sponsoring a 13-day tour of Iran that prohibits participation by anyone with an Israeli stamp in their passport, it’s outrageous and should be denounced,” said Andrea Levin, Director of the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA). “It would be reprehensible for any group to give in to a bigoted regime and bar Israelis (and, apparently, gays) but when The Times does — a publication that’s supposed to blow the whistle on corrupt practices — it’s all the more deplorable.”
The reported New York Times Journeys request that Jews and Gays keep their faith and sexual orientation a secret contradicts a claim by National Public Radio over the weekend.
Reported by Joel Pollak on Breitbart.com, NPR Whitewashes Iran in Weekend Tourism Segment, host Ari Shapiro asked Iranian-born, U.K.-based writer Kamin Mohammadi “I’m Jewish, and I’m gay. Would I be able to have a nice vacation in Iran?” Mohammadi answered, “You so would.”
Blogger Ira Stoll of SmarterTimes.com raised a journalism quandary the Times has placed itself in.
“One can understand why the Times is seeking new revenue opportunities as a tour operator, since its revenues in traditional areas such as newspaper subscriptions and advertising are not growing fast enough to satisfy investors. But there is potential for this sort of thing to adversely affect the Times’ journalism. How fair will Times journalism be toward those calling for tougher Iran sanctions if the sanctions would force the newspaper to cancel its lucrative luxury tours of Iran?”
Besides the journalism objectivity predicament the Times has lured itself into, many will contend that it has joined the shameful history of restricted country clubs who forbid Jews, Blacks, and or Woman from joining. “Times Journeys” offers fascinating trips and tours with an unwritten no Jews or Gays allowed policy.
But it is the admittance that anyone who has visited Israel will not be allowed to participate in the tour of Iran that may be most notable. The Gray Lady is already perceived to have an anti-Israel agenda by many in the pro-Israel community. The Times willingness to abide by the regime in Tehran refusal to recognize the Jewish State’s right to exist will only strengthen the argument of Times critics.
An email to “Times Journeys” was sent on Monday, inquiring about the representative’s statement about the Israeli passport stamp and keeping quiet about being Jewish. A day after the initial report, I received a response from “Reservations Specialist” Kevin Hoercher, unknown if it is the aforementioned Kevin, who wrote:
All travelers are welcome on our trip to Iran, and no one is asked to refrain from identifying their faith. To enter Iran, the Iranian government requires a passport valid for six months beyond the length of stay, and with two blank pages. In our experience, if your passport contains an Israeli stamp or stamps from other countries’ border crossing points with Israel, you will likely not be able to secure the required visa and therefore may be refused entry to Iran.