GENEVA (Aug. 30)
At a United Nations session here, Malaysia was accused of a “lamentable exercise of blatant racism and religious discrimination” over its efforts to force the New York Philharmonic Orchestra to drop from its program a musical work by a Jewish composer based on a Hebrew theme.
Daniel Lack, speaking on behalf of the World Jewish Congress and B’nai B’rith, blasted the action of the Malaysian government at a session of the UN Human Rights subcommission on the elimination of religious intolerance.
Lack said “religious intolerance is openly avowed when … a world renowned symphony orchestra is forbidden to perform a work by a Swiss/American composer because of his Jewish ancestry and the fact that the work had a Hebrew title.” He told the delegates that this was not the only instance of anti-Jewish discrimination in the world. “The boycott conducted by members of the League of Arab States against Israel, directed against nationals of other countries solely by reference to their Jewish faith” was a “particularly disquieting and obnoxious example of racial and religious discrimination,” Lack said.
He pointed out that the United States, France, Belgium, Holland and Luxembourg had adopted laws against discrimination on grounds of race and religion which make such practices a punishable offense.
In Syria, Lack stated, “its small Jewish population of 4,000 persons is kept hostage in a harshly restrictive environment of discrimination and oppression.” In an apparent reference to the Soviet Union, he noted that “in the case of one large national Jewish minority, the teaching of Hebrew is systematically banned … as part of a regrettable practice of denial of adequate religious facilities.”
CITES POSITIVE INSTANCES
Lack concluded by citing positive instances “of model national action to foster religious tolerance.” In Italy, negotiations are being concluded between the Jewish community and state authorities providing for equality of treatment in religious affairs. Similarly, Spanish authorities are presently in the process of concluding an agreement with its Jewish community guaranteeing its rights and status.
Lack asked that these positive developments be viewed “as illustrative of the standards to be emulated by other states in the promotion of understanding, tolerance, and respect with the fundamental right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion.”