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Israelis Barred From New York Times-Hosted Iran Tour; Rep Says Advisable to Hide Jewish or Gay Identity

October 13, 2014 7:42 pm 49 comments

Execution of prisoners in Iran. Photo: DPGI.

The New York Times is offering a pricey, 13-day excursion to the “once-forbidden land of Iran,” one of a series of its Times Journeys tours. However, 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, a representative told The Algemeiner on Monday.

When this reporter called the number provided on their website to ask about details of the trip – specifically for Israeli passport-holders – 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.”

The nearly $7,000 junket, organized by the newspaper that claims to publish “All The News That’s Fit To Print,” is led by journalist Elaine Sciolino, and promises a “Journey with on-the-ground experts who will help untangle this nation’s complicated timeline.”

That timeline, however, skips over the regime’s decades-long cat-and-mouse game with the west and the United Nations over nuclear weapons development, its avid support for international terrorism, its hosting of antisemitic international conferences and boosting of raw Jew hatred, its sworn desire to eradicate the Jewish State, its public lashings and flogging of women, hangings of gays from construction cranes, and persecution of Bahais and opponents of the regime.

“You will travel with Elaine Sciolino, she was the Paris bureau chief for the New York Times, and has been traveling to Iran since 1979,” the representative noted, adding that “She’s been writing about the history and the revolution…

“She’d be a great person to talk about contemporary Iran while you’re traveling there,” Kevin added, helpfully.

“All the areas we visit we feel are safe to travel…” Kevin said, when asked if the itinerary included a visit to Parchin, the suspected nuclear research site which recently saw a major explosion.

According to the promotional material on the website, the tour, which starts in Tehran, journeys “across country through beautiful landscapes, arid mountains and rural villages to experience vibrant bazaars,” where the traveler can “get lost in ancient cities and learn about the traditions and cultures of Iran. Traveling in a small group and staying in luxurious hotels along the way, your journey through Iran will reveal the secrets from this once forbidden land.”

Just so long as those secrets don’t include being Jewish or gay.

When asked it it would be alright to notify people during the trip of one’s Jewish or gay identity, Kevin replied, “I don’t know if you’d want to tell that to everyone you met; if that would be the best idea.

“I know relations between Iran and Israel are very strained,” he continued; “it might not be the best to talk about that with strangers that you might meet. That might be something to hold back and ask your experts on the trip.”

Despite both the newspaper and the Islamic Republic of Iran’s international track record, the representative said, “We wanted to pick Iran because we think it’s a great country in terms of history, amazing sites…. If you do feel like you’d be uncomfortable in there, there are other programs, as well, but we, of course, understand the nature of Iran, and understand that it might not be comfortable for everyone to travel there.”

Asked if he found the possibility of facilitating discrimination to be objectionable the NYT rep parried that, “Well, we would, of course, not want anyone to feel prejudiced on the trip; we’d do our best for that not to happen. But, of course, anywhere we travel we can’t guarantee every factor.”

The Algemeiner asked about the safety of trip participants considering that the State Department says on its website that, “the U.S. government does not have diplomatic or consular relations with the Islamic Republic of Iran and therefore cannot provide protection or routine consular services to U.S. citizens in Iran.”

“Yes, you are definitely safe with us; we have experience traveling to Iran before. And we feel that, traveling there, if anything were to happen, if we felt that segments of Iran we’re traveling to became unsafe to travel, we would notify you right away if we felt we had to cancel, and we would refund you any payment made.”

“But, based on our experience there, and the current climate, we feel comfortable traveling to Iran,” he said, adding that they coordinate their travel itinerary with the Swiss Embassy and keep the State Department appraised of their visit dates.

Kevin mentioned several “ancient ruins and civilizations,” and “focus on the ancient history of Iran.”

That history includes the story of members of the Bahai faith which have been persecuted in modern Iran.

“Since 2005, more than more than 700 Baha’is have been arrested, and the number of Baha’is in prison has risen from fewer than five to more than 100. … The constant threat of raids, arrests, and detention or imprisonment is among the main features of Iran’s persecution of Baha’is today,” according to the United Nations.

Journalist Ira Stoll who first drew attention to the tour on his blog Smarter Times wrote about the trip:

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? Why are Times journalists lending their reputations, such as they are, to promotional material that describes Iran as a kind of paradise — “colorful bazaars,” “trendy joie de vivre” — while skipping over the reality of other parts of Iran, like, say, Evin Prison?

49 Comments

  • I’m an atheist, so I guess that leaves me out. Also, I don’t give a fig about the differences between the Shi’ites and the Sunnis. Both sects are totalitarian and hateful to the core. Do I care about the differences between Baptists and Methodists? No. However, I don’t think the Times even knows the differences, not that they matter. It’s a good thing Indiana Jones traipsed around those parts in the 1930s. He wouldn’t be able to now.

  • I’m living in Iran
    The situation in Iran is hard for everyone and it is much harder for religious minorities, particularly Jews
    90% of Muslims are anti-Jews
    We are deprived of social services
    We do not include insurance
    For the cost of a new heart for his brother’s heart surgery costs are in trouble
    But any charity that does not help us
    Our insurance does not cover
    Even Israel is going to have a difficult time
    A trip to Israel is forbidden in Iran
    God save us from this hell.
    I am asking centers to handle our situation
    If someone does not hear our voice and our voice is not going anywhere

    • I call Bu**Sh** on your comment. I’m Iranian you don’t have to pretend to be Iranian if you are not. A Jewish friend of mine who lives in Tehran is allowed to go to Israel twice a year. Recent polls has shown Iran is the least anti-Semitic country in the Middle-East with 64% (even lower than Greece).

      You have to pay for health insurance in Iran. If you have a job you’ll be covered by the company just like the US and Germany.

      There are problems in Iran and no one denies them but that pisses me off when some one is misinforming the public opinion. If you are miserable you will remain miserable no matter where you are.

  • To be honest what right minded Jew would risk going to Iran. I admit, it is intolerable but why ask for that level of risk?

  • She’s a long Time apologist fot Iran if you go down her tweeter page you can find her re tweeting of articles of Henry Siegman and other less ten friendly people toward Israel https://twitter.com/ElaineSciolino

  • Will kosher food be available on the trip for participating Jewish tourists who wish to keep their identities in the closet or is halal going to be the daily special ?

  • right on Dr., Rabbi Rosenberg keep saying this and maybe enough stupid people will hear you You have my vote all the way Hag Sameach and lets pray for PEACE,,,

  • We will stick to travelling to Florida, or Israel, and never, never, would we set foot on Iran, and now places that were great like Turkey (Istanbul) or Egypt (Pharoh’s tombs)
    amazing that these haven’t been blown up. After all the long ago real Egyptian Civilization is long gone.

    New York Time – one paper is pandering to the wrong group.
    They will learn the hard way.

    Anyone with an Israeli Passport can surely spend their money on other places, including their beautiful Country and its Wonderful People.

    Sofia

  • Well aint that a doosey they advocate racially cleansing Jerusalem and Palestine and NOW the advocate Jews HIDING their religion in a place where JUDAISM HAS EXISTED LONGER THAN ISLAM. It’s not like they use their Jews as pawns and our own government does nothing to release Bob Levinson, who is both Jewish and THE LONGEST HELD HOSTAGE IN US HISTORY, may all of us be free from this racism and oppression.

  • Of course I can be wrong but LUXURY hotels in Iran. I know its been 45 years since I’ve been to Iran but I can’t imagine it. I went because I was going overland to India (the place to be if you were hippish). I would NEVER NEVER go there now. Even then I had to go to the Arab countries before I went to Israel. I also don’t believe that the three American hikers with one being a journalist didn’t know where they were hiking. Yes, there are no markers, this is the dessert folks but these kids were absolute IDIOTS. Rural Arabs are extremely hospitable, at least then they were. Today, they’re probably afraid for their own lives.
    I’m glad I did my traveling when I was younger. Today, I’d rather see the United States and spend my money here. This may be hard for most to understand, but I loved Afghanistan. Syria and Pakistan the worst. Lebanon was great as well, but I’m talking THEN.

  • It isn’t fair to suggest that the NYT is discrmininating. By warning people that an Israeli stamp in the passport will preclude getting an Iranian visa, the NYT is helping an applicant avoid the expense of time and money in getting refused by the Iranian immigration offices.
    As a man who is gay, I had one of the most enjoyable 3 weeks of my life in Iran this past Spring. I traveled all over the country and never once felt I had to hide my identity from people when asked the inevitable question about whether I was married or had children. I answered as I would in NY: I have been with my special friend for 32 years and no we don’t have children. Some people understood I was gay and some people didn’t give it another thought, but the conversation ended there unless they were interested and I was welcomed with warmth and graciousness throughout the country.
    By the way, I don’t have to go to Iran to experience homophobia. I can just go to my local synagogue or church.

    • Your local Synagogue or Church won’t hang you and your friend in public before prayers will they? If you are defending NYT maybe you should join the trip :)

    • …and mosque!!!

    • Well yes, but will they hang you in the town square from a construction crane?

    • Really? where do you find those synagogues and churches? There are a lot of synagogues and churches that married gay couples way before it became mainstream and now it is pretty mainstream.
      Not to mention there is a huge difference between Iran where they actually kill gays just for being gay and generic homophobes.

    • You won’t be hanged from a crane in the town Center here! There is simply no relativity here.

  • Martin Bookspan

    A composer of the late 19th century wrote to a newspaper critic: “I am in the smallest room of my house. Your review is before me; soon it will be behind me!”

    “Behind me” is where the New York Times BELONGS (except that its ink-stained rag would leave a mark). When, oh when, will every Jewish subscriber and reader determine that enough is enough and boycott that flaming insult of a “newspaper”?

    • Markus E Brajtman

      I cannot understand why any Jew, or Christian who is a real friend of Israel and Jews) still buy that rag.
      Nobody should spend one cent on buying that rag, nor advertise in the NYT

      If every Jew and Christian supporter stops buying or advertising in the NYT, they would feel the pinch. But I am sure their thinking is, “if the Jews or Christian supporters do not advertise, nor buy that rag, there are millions of Arab/Muslims who would make up 10 X what they will loose.

  • As either an American or a Jew you would have to be insane to travel to a country which proclaims its wish to exterminate Jews and Americans. But we know that the Times and its readers belong in an asylum.

  • Patrick Martin

    To be fair, the NYT didn’t create Iranian persecution, nor does being aware of the political reality there condone it. Learning about Iran is better than not learning about Iran.

  • Will there be side shows such a visit to Tehrans infamous jails and or participate and view a real multiple hanging of young gays. Will the group kiss the Ayatollah’s tunic as an act of reverence from The New York Times group.

  • Why is the tour operator stopping with Ira. Why not promote a tour of all the worst violators of human rights?

    I don’t know who is sicker — the people promoting the tour or the people signing up for it.

  • Empress Trudy

    When will the NYT fire all Jewish employees and columnists?

  • “I know relations between Iran and Israel are very strained,” he continued; “it might not be the best to talk about that with strangers that you might meet. That might be something to hold back and ask your experts on the trip.”

    I would agree with this. If you value your life you won’t say anything. And that leads me to the bigger question which is why is the New York Times still doing this? It’s like they’re saying hate and discrimination is okay?

    You’d think they’d have a clue.

  • Toby Klein Greenwald

    I wonder how they will welcome Thomas Friedman.

  • I know of tours of Jews from other western countries who have gone to Iran specifically to visit jewish sites. The tour groups were small, the sites (such as the tombs of Esther and Mordechai) were well kept, the visitors were welcomed and treated well. But the tours were of folks NOT from America. And I know of individual American jews who have gone to Iran for academic reasons and were welcomed and well treated, and even asked “when will the Americans come back? We love Americans!” It is all so unpredictable, which attitude will be in force at the time.

  • NYT confirms what everyone knows. So no need to hide it anymore.

  • Edna Anzarut-Turner

    The NYT are showing interest in taking people to see the landscape, rich non-political history and archaeological remains in Iran.

    These are apparently very beautiful and fascinating. I would have lived to see these, but being Jewish, I personally would find it a folly to venture there.

    I agree with the NYT they do not wish their sightseeing trip to be marred by trouble, very possible emprisonement, trials etc…were they to accept that Gays or JEWS join their group.

    Why would JEWS or any other people who are not desirable to the Iranian regime even wish to go there. It would be total insanity for anyone to wish to put themselves in harm’s way.

  • How does one get insurance for such a trip when it is on the U.S. State Department ‘no go’ list?

  • vivienne ziner

    How wonderful! Come to Iran and see the sights….Gays hanging from cranes! Dissidents imprisoned and poisoned! Bahai’s persecuted! students being tortured! Nuclear power plants being constructed in secret!Religious leaders who disagree being condemned to death! Come to Iran…the dream of a lifetime!…Or maybe,just maybe, your worst nightmare come true!!!

    New York Times- you are a disgrace!

  • The Times is getting desperate.

    • Iran in the last 35 years since the terrorist Mullahs hijacked our pro-Democracy revolution has become the world’s largest prison that is holding 75 million innocent people at gun point and ruling over through systematic creation of fear and terror. All those who can afford or able, run away from the country and settle down in countries, and the rest are suffering incredible repression, violent arrests and beatings and rape and torture if they dare to oppose the cruel regime. What they hope to do with these propaganda schemes is to show the naive Americans that all is well, as though sitting in a bus and passing through cities will give you the meaning of actual life under the criminal terrorist regime’s rule of thugs. The days of Mullah’s so called Islamic republic is long over and they are living on a borrowed time. Regime change is imminent. 99% of the people of Iran want to have Federal Republic of Iran, Secular Democratic, Free Market economy, multi-party political system, warm relations with Israel, United States, European Union and normal relations with Arab and Muslim world and no war with any country or nation or religion in the world. This is the future of Iran and no matter how much the Mullah’s foreign advisers are teaching them the art of Public Relations, you cannot change the reputation of Ghegiz Khan, Hitler and Khamnei through Public Relations. Each and every single Mullah, Hezbollahi, Revolutionary guards leaders, Baseej Militia leaders WILL be arrested and remain in prison until they paid for the long list of Crimes they committed against the people of Iran in the last 35 years.

  • What about the embargo on trade with Iran. Is this a violation?

  • Who Was Right?

    Those leftists cuddling up to Iran are nothing but fools running around with their brainless heads cut off. Just a figure of speech, or is it wishful thinking? But remember a proven fact; the only good leftist is ……

  • NO MORE NEW YORK TIMES FOR ME. I HOPE THEY GO BROKE. THIS IS INSANITY; IN THIS DAY AND AGE TO EXCLUDE JEWS AND GAYS IN REPREHENSIBLE.

    • u should have stopped buying it when you read their one sided reports on the latest gaza war
      the best way to let companies know how we feel and what we think is to hit them where it hurts— the bottom line

      • Kris Kristian

        Referring to the Gaza war.
        The world condemns Israel for fighting back and protecting her citizens.
        They are now calling the IDF “war criminals”

        I wonder what they would do, if or when the Islamics start to take over their countries by rocketing them incessantly?
        Now some countries have ‘recognised’ the Palestinian state with parts of the biblical Jewish city of Jerusalem to be the capital of the PA state.
        Have those anti Semitic states ever read the Hamas, Hezballah and Palestinian charter?
        If they have read this, then they are real Jew haters.
        If they have not read the charter, then they are fools not to first read it before that try to destroy Israel.

        I have a copy of their charter. It calls for the total destruction of Israel and the murder of every Jew.
        They must not forget that Israel and the Jews are God’s people. HE will protect Israel and HIS Jews.

        Those who try to destroy Israel will find that the tide is against them.
        God Will destroy those haters.

        Is that what those states support?
        Do they not realise that if, God Forbid, Israel is destroyed, it will be the first step, to join ISIS to destroy the Christian world?

        Is fighting back and bombing legal military targets, a war crime?
        But the firing of hundreds of rockets at Israel for a few months before Israel said “ENOUGH” not the biggest war crime?

  • Dorothy Seidel Wigod

    At the very least, bewildering. Well, I guess North Korea will be the next Times choice destination.

  • Of course the moral course of action would have been for the NYT to reject any iranian discrimination and demand that anyone, Jew, Israeli etc be included in the group. But the NY times has violated US law and has supported irans anti Israel and anti Jewish boycott

  • I don’t know this for certain, but it’s my understanding that Iran and many Arab countries do not allow Israelis or Jews to visit. I don’t think it’s up to the NY Times as your piece seems to say.

  • Gosh, wouldn’t it be funny if almost everyone who signed up for the trip was Jewish and had travelled to Israel?!

  • Camera called out PBS for being ridiculously unfair to Israel and yet, come pledge week, they’re showing things like “The History of the Jews”. For example they aired 7 documentaries one season and 4 were anti-Israel. But I think they’re seeing the light. A lot of their donors are Jewish.

    Maybe the NYTimes will wake up too. Look at their advertising. I bet a lot of those very expensive watches and handbags are purchased by Jews and I bet a lot of their subscribers are Jews.

    • I should like to draw your attention to the fact that, while defending the Jews’s right to travel wherever they like, you also subscribe to the old tropes that Hews are THE buyers of expensive watches and other costly items. The Christians and Arab Muslims slso are amateurs of expensive items. It is not a Jewish peculiarity. As a non Jew myself I am a detached observer but still find such comments unhelpful and biased.

  • BuckDePublick

    F the New York Self-Hating Times!

  • New York Times sides with Iran and the Ayatollas against Gays and Jews. How “safe” will non-Chadored Women be?

  • Michael Garfinkel

    The New York Times continues to sink to new lows, at depths that were previously unimaginable.

  • ISIS is the devil, Hitler reincarnated. Speak out now before it is too late. Share this you tube today with the media and all your contacts.

    : MR. PRESIDENT. Why did you not mention Iran in your speech at the U.N. Open your eyes and see that without boots on the ground Isis is winning. You were never in the military and do not understand combat. I am a Rabbi of a small congregation and do not have rich congregants. I ask that this you tube go viral. SO FAR THERE ARE . over..6000 HITS. THIS IS THE ONLY WAY I HAVE OF SPEAKING OUT.

    . “It is time for the world – especially Muslim communities – to explicitly,
    forcefully, and consistently reject the ideology of al Qaeda and ISIL.”
    President Barack Obama, Address to the United Nations General Assembly
    September 24, 2014

    120 Muslim scholars, including the Grand Mufti of Egypt, the dean of Sharia
    and Law at al-Azhar University, director of the Fiqh Council in the US, and
    the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem published an open letter to IS leader Abu Bakr
    al-Baghdadi decrying his state’s un-Islamic behavior in three languages:
    Arabic, English and German.

    Video of Rabbi Dr. Bernhard Rosenberg SAYS: President Obama, You Have Some Nerve:.

    Video is on http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ig8c795KymA

    Another holocaust is possible. If it happened once it can happen again. Thank G-d we have Israel. We need to do everything possible to keep Israel militarily strong. Jews get out of Europe. There can be no compromise regarding Israel nor can we depend on the good will of others. This unfortunately is a lesson that many Jews have never learned. Never forget, never forgive never again. Rabbi Dr. Bernhard Rosenberg
    MR. PRESIDENT.

    ISIS is a diversion. Iran is our major threat. Throughout history horrible atrocities including cutting off heads has been committed. This is not something we have never seen. Remember the NAZIS and never forget.

    We can beat ISIS but America Israel and the free world cannot survive a Nuclear Armed Iran .A Nuclear Holocaust is the ultimate nightmare, the ultimate threat to our survival, Iran is constructing the ultimate killing machine.Rabbi Dr. Bernhard Rosenberg

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