Monday 23 October 2023

Top Tech Conference Chief Resigns After Israel ‘War Crimes’ Diatribes

 The chief of a prominent technology conference called Web Summit resigned from his position after criticizing Israel‘s war on Hamas in response to terrorist attacks earlier this month.

Irish entrepreneur Paddy Cosgrove reportedly stepped down as CEO on Saturday after a series of sponsors and speakers withdrew from Web Summit’s annual gathering this year.

“Unfortunately, my personal comments have become a distraction from the event, and our team, our sponsors, our startups and the people who attend,” Cosgrove said in a statement. “I sincerely apologise again for any hurt I have caused.”

Cosgrove drew controversy after he posted to X critiquing Israel’s offensive against Hamas that began after the group’s terrorist attacks in Israel on October 7 that killed an estimated 1,400-plus people, calling attention to the suffering of civilians in the Gaza Strip who have been caught in the middle of the conflict.

“I’m shocked at the rhetoric and actions of so many Western leaders & governments, with the exception in particular of Ireland’s government, who for once are doing the right thing. War crimes are war crimes even when committed by allies, and should be called out for what they are,” Cosgrove said on October 15.

He faced criticism for the post. One response came from former PayPal and Facebook executive David Marcus.

“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,” Marcus said.

Cosgrove issued other statements to X, including a lengthy post that explained, “What Hamas did is outrageous and disgusting. It is by every measure an act of monstrous evil. Israel has a right to defend itself, but it does not, as I have already stated, have a right to break international law.” He later posted on October 16, “To repeat: War crimes are war crimes even when committed by allies & should be called out for what they are. I will not relent.”

The next day, he issued an apology that was published on his Web Summit blog.

“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,” Cosgrove said. “To anyone who was hurt by my words, I apologise deeply. What is needed at this time is compassion, and I did not convey that. My aim is and always has been to strive for peace. Ultimately, I hope with all my heart that this can be achieved.”

But over the past few days, a number of major participants had dropped out of Web Summit’s 2023 event with IntelGoogle, and Meta among them. Siemens, a German company, told Insider it was withdrawing as a sponsor after assessing “recent developments surrounding Web Summit.”

With Cosgrove’s exit, a spokesperson for Web Summit said a new CEO would be appointed and that its annual event next month in Lisbon, Portugal, would go on as planned, according to the Associated Press.

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