Paddy Cosgrave, the CEO and founder of Web Summit, quit on Saturday after statements he made about the Israel-Hamas conflict forced some IT companies and investors to cancel their plans to attend the summit in Portugal next month.
Sadly, Paddy Cosgrave said in an interview that my personal remarks have become an interruption to the occasion, our team, our sponsors, our start-ups, and the people who attend. Once more, I truly apologize for any harm that I may have caused.
Paddy Cosgrave’s remarks denouncing Israel’s conflict in Gaza were made on X, the new name of Twitter, a little over a week before he resigned. He commented on October 13 that even when allies commit war crimes, they are still war crimes and should be pointed out for what they are.
Paddy Cosgrave also condemned the October 7 bombings in Israel, which were carried out by Hamas militants and resulted in an estimated 1,400 deaths, according to officials.
The Ministry of Health in the coastal region controlled by Hamas reports that in the two weeks following the attacks, Israeli troops have bombed Gaza nonstop, killing at least 4,385 Palestinians and plunging the area into a humanitarian crisis.
Human rights organization Amnesty International declared that the “collective treatment” of Gaza’s residents for Hamas’ terrorist actions is tantamount to a war crime the day before Paddy Cosgrave’s post on X. The Israeli military has issued evacuation orders for certain areas of Gaza and claims not to target civilians.
Paddy Cosgrave apologized and clarified his position in a nearly 600-word letter that he published on Web Summit’s blog on Tuesday.
Paddy Cosgrave Statment
I completely denounce the heinous, repulsive, and horrific October 7 massacre carried out by Hamas. He wrote, I also demand the freeing without condition of all hostages. I firmly believe that Israel has the right to exist and to self-defense. I wholeheartedly endorse a two-state solution. Additionally, I think Israel should respect international law and the Geneva Conventions when defending itself, meaning it shouldn’t carry out war crimes.
However, digital behemoths like Siemens, Amazon, Meta, and Google parent firm Alphabet quickly reacted negatively to his original remarks, causing them to cancel the conference. The conference was set to take place in Lisbon from November 13–16 this year.
A representative for Web Summit said in an email that the firm will name a new CEO as soon as possible and that Web Summit 2023 in Lisbon will go according to schedule. Web Summit is responsible for one of the biggest tech conferences in the world each year.
Google (GOOGL.O), Meta Platforms Inc. (META.O), Siemens AG (SIEGn.DE), Intel Corp. (INTC.O), and a number of other major firms have chosen not to attend the event, according to a Bloomberg article published on Friday.
With many professionals and students facing backlash for publicly expressing their opinions on the Israel-Hamas conflict, Cosgrave resigned.
Over a dozen business leaders have promised in recent weeks to put Harvard students who are affiliated with organizations that signed a letter accusing Israel of being the cause of the most recent wave of violence on a blacklist. Meanwhile, a number of journalists have been suspended or fired for writing critical posts about Israel or expressing pro-Palestinian opinions.
Human rights activists claim that a large portion of the business reaction has downplayed the suffering in Gaza and fostered fear among employees who might wish to show their solidarity for the Palestinian people. Jewish organizations have criticized the lackluster or sluggish responses to the October 7 Hamas attack.
The country’s leading Muslim civil rights and advocacy group, the Council on American-Islamic Relations, condemned the statements made by US corporate leaders that lack any genuine display of concern toward Palestinian civilians, as well as the retaliation against the students.