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Gavin Rossdale Vocalizes Protest Of Austrian Leaders
Gavin Rossdale, lead singer of British alt-rock band Bush, and classical pianist Andras Schiff have independently taken public action to express their dismay with Austria's new coalition government, which includes a far-right party whose leader, Joerg Haider, has made statements sympathetic to the Nazis.
Rossdale told Reuters that on Friday night (2/4), he sang the Jewish prayer for the breaking of bread on the Sabbath to a crowd of 2,000 at a concert in Graz, Austria. He said he sang the prayer during the show's encore to "offer condolences" to Austrians who did not support Austria's new government of Haider's Freedom Party and the center-right Austrian People's Party, a coalition which was sworn in on Friday. Rossdale described the crowd's response as "powerful" and "passionate."
In an unrelated act of protest, Hungarian-born pianist Andras Schiff, a Jewish citizen of Austria, refused to play a concert at the Austrian embassy in Washington, D.C., according to a Reuters report based on Hungarian radio. Reuters said that Schiff sent the embassy a message that he was "deeply upset" that the Freedom party was now part of the Austrian government, and that "politics and art cannot really be separated."
In the past, Haider has apologized for some of his remarks praising Hitler's employment policies and the Waffen SS, but he continues to alienate Europe and the U.S. with his belief in "zero immigration" and that ethnic Germans driven out of Czechoslovakia at the end of World War II should be entitled to the same compensation as Holocaust victims.
Since the coalition government was sworn in, there have been anti-Haider protests in Vienna and Paris. Israel has banned Haider from entering the country, and the European Union has said that it will cease bilateral contacts with Austria's ambassadors. The U.S. has recalled its ambassadors to Austria for "consultations."