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Tel Aviv Mayor Congratulates N.Y. Philharmonic for Rejecting Malaysian Government Demand

August 17, 1984
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

Mayor Shlomo Lahat of Tel Aviv has congratulated orchestra conductor Zubin Mehta and the members of the New York Philharmonic Orchestra for “not surrendering to anti-cultural malice” and refusing to perform in Malaysia after that country demanded that the orchestra drop a score composed by the Jewish composer Emest Bloch during its concerts there next month.

Malaysian officials in Kuala Lumpur, meanwhile, dismissed as “mischievous and malicious” the assertion by Rep. Stephen Solarz (D. NY) that Malaysia’s action barring the performance of the Bloch piece because it contained “Jewish elements” was “patently discriminatory, prejudiced and anti-Semitic.”

Solarz, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs subcommittee on Asian and African Affairs, made the claim in a letter Monday to the Malaysian Ambassador to the United States, Danto Lew Sip Hen, in which the Congressman sought an explanation for the Malaysian action and suggested that it could have an effect on U.S.-Malaysian relations.

Responding to Solarz, Deputy Foreign Minister Abdul Kadir Sheikh Fadzir said yesterday in Kuala Lumpur that “for anyone to use this little incident to accuse the Malaysian government of being prejudiced and anti-Semitic is clearly mischievous and malicious.” He was quoted by the national news agency Bernama.

The New York Philharmonic last week at first bowed to the request by Malaysia, a predominantly Moslem nation, to drop the Bloch piece, “Schelomo, A Hebrew Rhapsody for Cello and Orchestra,” but then cancelled the scheduled stop in Malaysia after a storm of protest from American Jewish leaders and prominent political figures.

Malaysia did not oppose the inclusion of works by other Jewish composers in the program such as Leonard Bernstein, George Gershwin and Aaron Copland. Outraged Jewish leaders blasted the Malaysian request as cultural blackmail, reminiscent of Nazi book buming, and cultural anti-Semitism.

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