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Prominent Tech Conference CEO Resigns Amid Backlash for Statements Over Israel-Hamas War
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By Associated Press
Published 6 months ago on
October 23, 2023

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NEW YORK — Paddy Cosgrave, the chief executive officer of a prominent European tech conference called Web Summit, resigned from his role on Saturday amid backlash for his public statements that suggested Israel was committing war crimes.

A spokesperson for Web Summit, which organizes one of the world’s largest tech conferences every year, said in an e-mailed statement sent to The Associated Press that it will appoint a new CEO, and the conference will go ahead next month in Lisbon as planned.

Cosgrave, the Irish entrepreneur who is also founder of Web Summit, said in a statement Saturday that his personal comments “have become a distraction from the event, and our team, our sponsors, our startups and the people who attend.”

“I sincerely apologise again for any hurt I have caused,” he said.

Cosgrave’s resignation is a prominent example of the fallout from the Israel-Hamas war that has spilled into workplaces everywhere, as top leaders of prominent companies weigh in with their views while workers complain their voices are not being heard.

Heat Over War Crimes Comment

Islamic rights advocates say much of the corporate response has minimized the suffering in Gaza, where thousands have died in Israeli airstrikes, and created an atmosphere of fear for workers who want to express support for Palestinians. Jewish groups have criticized tepid responses or slow reactions to the Oct. 7 Hamas rampage that killed 1,400 people in Israel and triggered the latest war.

Web Summit faced a growing number of industry giants — including Intel, Meta and Google — pulling out of the conference even after Cosgrave released a long message denouncing the Hamas attacks and apologizing for the timing of his initial tweet while defending his overall views on the conflict.

Cosgrave posted on his X account, formerly known as Twitter, on Oct. 13 that he was “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,” he added.

Two days later, he updated his tweet calling “what Hamas did is outrageous and disgusting” but adding, “Israel has a right to defend itself, but it does not, as I have already stated, have a right to break international law.”

In a later apology that was posted Oct. 17 on the Web Summit blog and shared on his X account, he said, “What is needed at this time is compassion, and I did not convey that,” he said. “My aim is and always has been to strive for peace.”

He went on to say that “I also believe that, in defending itself, Israel should adhere to international law and the Geneva Conventions – i.e. not commit war crimes. This belief applies equally to any state in any war. No country should breach these laws, even if atrocities were committed against it.”

His last post on X read: “Bye for now. Need some time off this platform.”

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