The Peculiar World Tours of The New York Times

The New York Times Journeys is the international travel program of the eminent New York newspaper. It offers guided tours by experts to various places in the world, ranging from the mundane to the exotic: “Trends and Flavors of Bohemian Budapest;” “Arts, Food and Markets of Mexico City;” “Andalusia: Center of Judaism, Christianity and Islam;” “Unlocking the Mysteries of Indochina;” and the striking “Chasing the Sun, Moon and Stars in South America”, among many others. Middle East-wise it offers, among others, “Secrets of Marrakesh;” “Egypt: To the Land of the Pharaohs;” “History and Current Events in Jordan and Lebanon;” and “Conflict, Culture and History: The Israeli-Palestinian Conundrum”, with a nine-day itinerary by experts and correspondents of the newspaper, which promotes itself as “a leader in its evenhanded coverage of Israel, Palestine and the Middle East”. I suspect that the editors of The Times and I would disagree about what constitutes an evenhanded coverage.

It also promotes tourist trips to the Islamic Republic of Iran, a dictatorial theocracy that sponsors terrorism on a global scale, carries out illegal financial activities, is developing a controversial nuclear program, is under sanctions from Washington, and that US and Canadian Courts have found responsible for killing Americans. For USD 7,895 The Times can take you to Tehran, Kermanshah, Borujed, Khomein, Isfahan, Yazd and Shiraz on a thirteen-day tour. “Though Iran often rejects Western ways and is frequently under fire for its positions on human rights, its nuclear program and Israel”, the add goes, “its role as a birthplace of civilization cannot be denied”. Whoever wishes to sign up for the “Iran: Tales of Persia” program must hurry: the next departure is on November 10 … And Donald Trump is about to announce new and vast sanctions against the Ayatollah regime.

Fortunately for The Times, it was not offering trips to Venezuela when the Bolivarian secret service threw a political dissident out of a tenth-floor-window, a few weeks ago. But to its discomfort, it was promoting ten-day tours to Saudi Arabia with accommodation in five-star hotels at a starting price of USD 11,995 per person, with the name “Saudi Arabia and the Emirates: the past and future of oil,” when someone in Ryhad ordered to strangle, dismember and bury in some unknown place in Turkey The Washington Post contributor Jamal Khashoggi. After some protesting, The New York Times canceled the next three trips to the House of Saud.

That was the right decision. Since the disappearance of Khashoggi at the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul, this newspaper devoted seven severe editorials to the subject. The titles and subtitles were sufficiently eloquent:

-“Find Jamal Khashoggi. Saudi Arabia must do everything in its power to help locate the missing Washington Post journalist” (Oct. 5).

-“Saudi Arabia Must Answer for Jamal Khashoggi. If the Saudi journalist in exile was abducted and murdered, as many fear, a full accounting is needed” (Oct. 8).

-“The World Needs Answers on Jamal Khashoggi. And President Trump should lead the way in demanding them” (Oct. 11).

-“The Saudi Cover-Up Crumbles. Evidence mounts of a ghastly crime in the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul. President Trump still seems inclined to buy the kingdom’s lame denials” (Oct. 16).

-“Trump Says Jamal Khashoggi Is Dead. What Next? Now is not the time to back down” (Oct. 18).

-“A Saudi Prince’s Fairy Tale. The Crown Prince, Mohammed bin Salman, issues another incredible explanation for the death of Jamal Khashoggi” (Oct. 20).

-“What Is Turkey’s Game? President Recep Tayyip Erdogan sees the Jamal Khashoggi case as a chance to hobble Saudi Arabia, a regional and religious rival” (Oct. 23).

So The Times actually had no choice. It could not lecture the Trump Administration from a pedestal of high morality and simultaneously profit from tourist trips to Saudi Arabia. By canceling these tours, however, the newspaper found itself in a dilemma of inconsistency, and -as The Algemeiner´s Ira Stoll pointed out- some observers called The Times to task. “Question for @nytimes: concern for fate of @JKhashoggi notwithstanding, by what rationale are you suspending tourism to #SaudiArabia but proudly advertising money-making ‘Journey’ tours to #Iran, world’s leading sponsor of terrorism?” queried Robert Satloff of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. “The @nytimes decides it can’t run its Saudi Arabia tour for $11,995 because it has killed #JamalKhashoggi” tweeted Canadian human rights activist Kaveh Shahrooz. “The $7,895 trip to Iran is still OK though. Because Iran doesn’t kill dissidents, apparently,” he added wryly.

I wonder if The Times will get a pass for its “Extreme Cuisine in China” tour at a time when the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination has denounced that “up to one million Uighurs” (a Muslim minority) are being detained in re-education camps in Xinjiang province, in western China.

“Introduce your taste buds to new flavors, from fried scorpion and silkworm chrysalis in the stalls of the Wangfujing night market to the delicate seahorse soups of Yangshuo. With a New York Times expert and local aficionados, discover types of food you never knew existed”. How about a visit to the imprisoned Uighurs so that tourists could discover types of human rights violations that they never knew existed?

It isn´t worth looking for how many outraged editorials The New York Times has published about China. By now we know of what material the editorial integrity of this newspaper is made of.


About the Author
Julian Schvindlerman is an Argentine writer and journalist specializing in Middle East affairs. He lectures on World Politics at the University of Palermo and is a regular contributor to Infobae and Perfil. He is the author of The Hidden Letter: A History of an Arab-Jewish Family, Triangle of Infamy: Richard Wagner, the Nazis and Israel; Rome and Jerusalem: Vatican policy toward the Jewish state; and Land for Peace, Land for War.
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