- The CEO of a top technology conference in Europe accused Israel of committing war crimes.
- The country of Israel, as well as several industry leaders, have since pulled out of the conference.
- Tech is the latest sector grappling with the fighting between Israelis and Palestinians.
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Several tech leaders have publicly withdrawn their attendance from a top industry conference in Europe next month after the summit’s CEO criticized Israel in a tweet.
Paddy Cosgrave, an Irish entrepreneur and the co-founder of Web Summit, an annual technology conference held in Lisbon each November, stoked outrage among his colleagues after he accused Israel of committing war crimes.
“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,” Cosgrave wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter, on Friday. “War crimes are war crimes even when committed by allies, and should be called out for what they are.”
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.
— Paddy Cosgrave (@paddycosgrave) October 13, 2023
Cosgrave did not clarify any specific war crimes he was accusing Israel of committing. International legal experts, however, are increasingly warning that both both sides have likely committed war crimes, including the intentional targeting of civilians by Hamas and the forcible transfer of populations by Israel.
Prior to his tweet about war crimes, Cosgrave had previously praised the Irish government for rejecting a bid to suspend European Union aid to Palestinians before EU foreign ministers reversed the decision to cancel the assistance.
Israel’s ambassador to Portugal, Dor Shapira, announced Monday that his country would no longer participate in the Web Summit conference as a result of Cosgrave’s “outrageous statements.”
“Even during these difficult times, he is unable to set aside his extreme political views and denounce the Hamas terrorist activities against innocent people,” Shapira wrote on X.
Shapira said “dozens” of companies had also pulled out of the event and he encouraged more to do so.
Cosgrave did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment.
Several industry leaders have since said they will also cancel their appearances and attendances at the upcoming Web Summit conference, including Garry Tan, CEO of Y Combinator; Ori Goshen, co-CEO of AI21 Labs; Ravi Gupta, a partner at Sequoia; Keith Peiris, CEO of Tome; Adam Singolda, head of advertising company Taboola; and David Marcus, CEO of Lightspark and former PayPal chief executive.
“We at AI21 cannot be part of such indecency and moral bankruptcy,” Goshen, who was set to give a keynote speech at the conference, wrote.
In a statement to Insider, a spokesperson for Web Summit condemned the “horrific attacks by Hamas on Israelis,” and said the company wants to “reiterate our devastation for the loss of innocent life in Israel and Gaza.”
“We are saddened to hear that some Israelis in the tech community will no longer be attending Web Summit,” a spokesperson said. “We regret any hurt caused and extend our deepest sympathies to everyone who has lost loved ones. We hope for peaceful reconciliation.”
Cosgrave made his controversial tweet soon after Israeli forces began preparing for a ground invasion into the Gaza Strip after the Palestinian militant group Hamas unleashed a wave of unprecedented attacks in Israel last week that left hundreds of Israeli civilians dead.
On Thursday evening, Israel told more than a million civilians living in northern Gaza to evacuate their homes to the southern half of the besieged territory. Israel has closed two border crossings out of Gaza, while the Rafah crossing, located on the Egyptian border, is also currently closed.
Israel said 1,300 people were killed in the Hamas attacks and more than 100 people taken hostage. The Palestinian health ministry on Monday, meanwhile, said 2,778 Palestinians are dead as a result of Israel’s retaliation in Gaza.
On Sunday, two days after Cosgrave accused Israel of committing war crimes, he added an addendum to his original tweet, condemning the Hamas attacks as “outrageous and disgusting.”
“Israel has a right to defend itself, but it does not, as I have already stated, have a right to break international law,” Cosgrave wrote.
Early Monday, Cosgrave issued yet another tweet about the conflict.
“We are devastated to see the terrible killings and the level of innocent civilian casualties in Israel and Gaza,” he wrote. “We condemn the attacks by Hamas and extend our deepest sympathies to everyone who has lost loved ones. We hope for peaceful reconciliation.”
A couple hours later, amid news of increasing Web Summit cancellations, however, Cosgrave appeared to double down on his original remarks.
“To repeat: War crimes are war crimes even when committed by allies & should be called out for what they are,” Cosgrave wrote. “I will not relent.”
Correction: October 17, 2023 — This story has been updated to include that the Rafah crossing on the Egyptian border is also closed. An earlier version of this story misstated that Israel had closed all border crossings out of Gaza.