By Ira Stoll
Here is a quiz: Which foreign leader did the New York Times mourn the “untimely death” of, with a staff editorial praising him as “eminence gris,” a “pragmatic and skilled behind-the-scenes operator” and a “moderate”?
a) Shimon Peres, the Nobel peace laureate former prime minister and president of Israel; or
b) Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, the corrupt former president of Iran, who approved the terrorist bombing of a Jewish cultural center in Argentina and spurred Iran’s illicit nuclear weapons program.
If you guessed “a,” you are wrong. The Times did not issue a staff editorial mourning the death of Peres. If you guessed “b,” you are correct: the Times carries an unsigned staff editorial, representing the newspaper’s official institutional position, headlined, “The Untimely Death of an Iranian Pragmatist.” The Times editorial whitewashes Rafsanjani’s record, making no mention whatsoever of either the AMIA Jewish center bombing in Buenos Aires that occurred under his reign or of his role in pursuing Iran’s nuclear weapons program.
Michael Rubin gives the real story on Rafsanjani at the American Enterprise Institute and Commentary. Sohrab Ahmari does the same at the Wall Street Journal. Even the Times’s own obituary of Rafsanjani had mentioned that:
Argentina has accused Mr. Rafsanjani and other senior Iranian figures of complicity in the 1994 bombing of a Jewish community center in Buenos Aires, in which 85 people died. In 1997, a German court concluded that the highest levels of Iran’s political leadership had ordered the killing five years earlier of four exiled Iranian Kurdish dissidents in Berlin. The events added weight to American assertions that Iran was a sponsor of terrorism. Mr. Rafsanjani was president from 1989 to 1997.
However, the Times editorial mourning Rafsanjani’s “untimely death” makes no mention of any of this. It might be noted that the deaths of the Kurdish dissidents in Berlin and the 85 who perished in the AMIA bombing were also “untimely.” So were the deaths in Jerusalem this week of four Israeli soldiers, who, unlike Rafsanjani, have not yet been mourned by a Times editorial.
What’s going on here? A cynic might suggest that the paper wants to assure its continued access to Iran for its lucrative Times “Journeys” travel tours. The New York Times is scheduled to offer nine separate departures of its Iran tours in 2017, starting at $7,395 a person, not including airfare. At least one of the tours is to be staffed by a member of the same editorial board that issued the heartfelt eulogy of Rafsanjani; others are to be staffed by Times news department journalists.
Or maybe this is a triumph of Times-ian moral relativism.
A recent New York Times news dispatch from Tehran on the frequency of hunger strikes by Iranian prisoners reports, “Two of the hunger strikers, Mr. Sadeghi and Ali Shariati, have been convicted of crimes against the state — charges that by Western standards would make them political prisoners.”
Note the hesitance and self-consciousness by the Times at applying “Western standards” to Iran. Why not just write, “Two of the hunger strikers, Mr. Sadeghi and Ali Shariati, are political prisoners”?
By Western standards, it’s obscene to publish an editorial mourning the “untimely” death of someone who okayed the bombing of a Jewish community center in Buenos Aires, a bombing in which 85 people were killed. But the Times, apparently, has its own inexplicable standards. Maybe if you pay $7,395 to go tour Iran guided by a Times editorial board member, you can look her in the eye over dinner at some fancy Iranian hotel and ask her how she justifies the editorial mourning Rafsanjani. Or one might suggest that it might not be as good a business proposition, but it would be a better journalistic and moral one — at least by “Western standards” — for the Times instead to offer staff-guided “journeys” to the graves of the victims of Rafsanjani’s terror.
(c) 2017 The Algemeiner Journal