Big news for IsramWorld today: The tour operator and its wholly owned subsidiary, europe too, are suspending tour operations to the Russian Federation.
A. Ady Gelber, President and CEO of the New York-based company, explained in a statement that the suspension comes in the wake of the Russian government's recent open declarations of anti-gay sentiment and the enactment of regulations that could endanger or discriminate against gay travelers or travelers who "exhibit a tolerance for the LGBT lifestyle."
"In the 21 century, we cannot turn a blind eye to a circumstance whereby our clients' welfare can be jeopardized by who they are, or who they might appear to be," Gelber said, "or, even more ominously, by their purposefully or inadvertently engaging in what the Russian government characterizes as the 'propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations.'"
This is not the first time IsramWorld made a decision based on politics. In 2009, IsramWorld suspended tours to the United Arab Emirates after they prohibited entry to travelers with Israeli stamps in their passports. And when, after the Camp David Accords, IsramWorld (reportedly the country's largest tour operator to Israel) created its own local Egyptian and Jordanian operations, it did so on the condition that all American travelers would qualify for entry and that the pre-1967 prior need for "proof of baptism" would be abolished.
"As 21st-century Americans, we have to take a stand against archaic prejudice and reprehensible bigotry," says Gelber, "and, as a child of the Holocaust, I am painfully aware that had international corporations acted en masse with a conscience during the 1930's, the history of the 1940s might have turned out very differently."
Commenting on Russian reports that no gay or "seen-to-be-gay" athlete will be discriminated against during the 2014 Winter Olympics, Gelber observed that this was a haunting replay of the cynical removal of anti-Jewish signs and placards during the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin. "I have been very much affected by President Obama's pledge that the United States needs to be, and be seen to be, 'on the right side of history.'"
For the time being, passengers already booked to visit Russia are being given the option to sign a "waiver of responsibility" and proceed with the trip, or to cancel without penalty. "But we will accept no new bookings for Russia until and unless the Russian Federation decides it is time to cease discrimination against segments of its population and its visitors," Gelber stated.
For information about IsramWorld, visit www.isramworld.com.