The New York Times Touts Islamic Sultanate, Smuggling Hub as a ‘Carefree’ Travel Destination
“A Carefree Getaway Just Off the Persian Gulf” is the online headline the New York Times is running over a 2,500-word travel-section article about the sultanate of Oman.
“Carefree”? Not if you are gay; the US State department warns travelers that in Oman: “Consensual same-sex sexual conduct is illegal and subject to a jail term of six months to three years.” That’s right, the same New York Times that has been editorially cheering on a boycott of North Carolina over the transgender bathroom issue is somehow willing to make an exception in the tolerance and pluralism department when it is an Arab-Muslim monarchy that is doing the discriminating.
“Carefree?” The “Oman Tours” website reports: “You can reckon on automatically receiving a visa, providing the passport is not Israeli and there were no Israeli visa stamps in the preceding six months.”
The Times article makes no mention whatsoever of Oman’s discrimination against either Israelis or homosexuals, perhaps because it might interfere with the newspaper’s depiction of the travel destination as “carefree.”
Toward the end, the Times article does mention a curious sight visitors encountered during a “full-day dolphin cruise” that they spent “propped up on oriental cushions and carpets at the bow of the boat.” The Times reports:
Dozens of small, powerful motorboats were skimming across the harbor, driven by tanned, wind-beaten men who our captain explained were Iranian smugglers. It is a two-hour trip across the strait, one of the world’s major oil transit points. The men legally load between 150 and 200 motorboats daily with all manner of goods in Oman — cigarettes, small electronics and even an occasional car — then sneak across to Iran at night to avoid paying customs duty there.
It doesn’t seem to have occurred to the Times that this smuggling takes place not merely “to avoid paying customs duty,” but also to evade the US and international sanctions that have been imposed on Iran as a punishment for its missile program, its support for international terrorism and its violations of basic and fundamental norms of democracy and human rights. Maybe it’s worth a freestanding, hard-news story in the foreign section, rather than a paragraph buried at the bottom of a travel story touting the wonders of “carefree” Oman. What are the smuggling profits used for? What Iranian faction allows this trade? How is that faction paid off? And what happens to the money? How much money is involved? Do the tobacco and electronics and auto companies whose products are involved know about this? Are they doing anything to stop it, or are they intentionally ignoring it as a way of boosting their sales in violation of the sanctions?
A Times article from 2008 put the value of the smuggling trade to Iran at $6 billion a year; Al Jazeera had an update earlier this year. That is real money. Describing Oman as the economic feeding tube of the Holocaust-denying, Jew-killing terrorist state Iran, though, might get in the way of depicting Oman as “carefree,” a place with, as the Times puts it, “attractive, quiet shores and warm, dolphin-rich seas,” with “the spa, the saltwater pool and the organic garden,” with “splendid serenity. … warmth and utter peace.”
If the Times editors think Oman is so warm, peaceful, attractive and “carefree,” maybe they can try living there for a few years, with no escaping anywhere else. After a few months, North Carolina might start to look like a pretty good option.
More of Ira Stoll’s media critique, a regular Algemeiner feature, can be found here.