CEO of Web Summit Tech Conference Resigns Over Israel Comments

CEO of Web Summit Tech Conference Resigns Over Israel Comments – The CEO of one of the world’s largest technology conferences, Web Summit, stepped down on Saturday amidst controversy surrounding his comments about the Israel-Hamas conflict. This controversy led to a boycott, causing numerous speakers and companies to withdraw from the event. 

Despite this, the organizers have confirmed that Web Summit will still proceed in Lisbon next month, with plans to appoint a new CEO to lead the event. Paddy Cosgrave, the Irish entrepreneur who founded Web Summit and had been in charge since 2009, announced his resignation following the withdrawal of companies like Google, Meta, Amazon, and Intel due to his remarks.

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He expressed his astonishment on X last week regarding the rhetoric of numerous Western leaders and governments in reaction to Israel’s bombing of Gaza following the Hamas attack, which resulted in the deaths of more than 1,300 people. “War crimes are war crimes even when committed by allies, and should be called out for what they are,” Cosgrave wrote, referring to Israel’s wave of attacks on Gaza after the violence committed by Hamas.

The statement triggered widespread anger, leading to venture capitalists, founders of Israeli startups, and major tech companies withdrawing from Web Summit. This annual conference, which has convened industry leaders and top companies for the past 14 years, was significantly impacted. David Marcus, a former Facebook executive who oversaw the company’s cryptocurrency project, was among those who criticized Cosgrave, writing on X: “Saddened by your ill-informed stance. “

“You could’ve taken a more nuanced one, condemning these atrocities and calling for restraint. That would’ve been acceptable. You chose to support terrorists. As such I’ll never attend/sponsor/speak at any of your events again.” As a boycott movement gained momentum, Cosgrave attempted to walk back his comments with a post on X: “We are devastated to see the terrible killings and the level of innocent civilian casualties in Israel and Gaza.”

“We condemn the attacks by Hamas and extend our deepest sympathies to everyone who has lost loved ones. We hope for peaceful reconciliation.” But he then doubled down on his previous remark, saying: “To repeat: War crimes are war crimes even when committed by allies & should be called out for what they are.” As more backed out of the event, Cosgrave issued an apology in hopes of containing the fallout. 

He wrote that: “I understand that what I said, the timing of what I said, and the way it has been presented has caused profound hurt to many.” Pressure kept mounting, however, and on Saturday, Cosgrave announced that he was stepping aside as the leader of Web Summit. “Unfortunately, my personal comments have become a distraction from the event, and our team, our sponsors, our startups and the people who attend,” he wrote on the event’s website.

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Web Summit was originally held in Dublin but moved in 2015 to Lisbon.In his apology, Cosgrave wrote that he “unequivocally” supported Israel’s right to defend itself, adding that “like so many figures globally, I also believe that, in defending itself, Israel should adhere to international law and the Geneva Conventions – i.e. not commit war crimes.”

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