The CEO of Web Summit, one of Europe's most significant tech conferences, Paddy Cosgrove has resigned from his position because of backlash over negative comments he made about Israel, according to Business Insider.
A significant number of major companies and tech leaders said they would withdraw from participation in the summit following Cosgrove's comments, which blasted Israel's actions against Hamas and Gaza in the wake of a Hamas attack that has killed more than 1,400 Israelis and wounded more than 5,000.
The controversy started on October 13 when Cosgrove tweeted from his personal account, "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."
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
There is no evidence that Israel has committed any war crimes, and Cosgrove failed to call out Hamas for obvious war crimes including abducting civilians, killing children, and raping women, which were caught on video.
His sentiments caused Garry Tan to tweet that he would not appear at the conference, scheduled for mid-November in Lisbon. Intel and Siemens, which were major sponsors, also pulled out.
Additionally, Israel's ambassador to Portugal announced that Israel would not participate.
On October 17, Cosgrove apologized for his comments but repeated that Israel should adhere to the Geneva Convention. In subsequent tweets, he also compared the Israel-Hamas conflict to Ireland's previous civil war and encouraged the two sides to find peace.
A commenter on the thread posted a map of the Middle East showing tiny Israel surrounded by Muslim enemies to show that Cosgrove's comparison was an invalid one.
Cosgrove announced his resignation on Saturday with another apology and a statement.
"Unfortunately, my personal comments have become a distraction from the event, and our team, our sponsors, our startups and the people who attend. I sincerely apologize again for any hurt I have caused," he said.
Web Summit organizers said that the event will take place as scheduled and that a replacement for Cosgrove will happen as quickly as possible.
It was not clear whether any of the sponsors and participants that had withdrawn would come back with Cosgrove's resignation.
Around 70,000 delegates were expected to attend the summit.