The boss of one of Europe’s biggest technology conferences has resigned after a controversial social media post accusing Israel of ‘war crimes’.
Paddy Cosgrave, the chief executive of Web Summit, weighed in on Israel’s air strikes on the Gaza Strip after Hamas’ terrorists invaded southern Israel on October 7.
Posting on X/Twitter, Cosgrave, an Irish entrepreneur who founded the conference in 2009, said: “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
The comments prompted anger from several technology giants including Google, Meta, Amazon, Siemens and Intel who pulled out of the upcoming conference. TikTok, the Chinese social media giant, also pulled out of the event due to be held in Lisbon, Portugal.
Two days later, Cosgrave added to his original post and condemned Hamas’ incursion on Israel, which has killed at least 1,400 Israelis so far.
He wrote: “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.”
Cosgrave later issued an apology on October 17. He said his personal comments had "become a distraction from the event, and our team, our sponsors, our start-ups and the people who attend".
First, 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.— Paddy Cosgrave (@paddycosgrave) October 15, 2023
Second, here’s the host of the most watched chat show in… pic.twitter.com/HDdl2MrgfC
Cosgrave said his comments were intended to urge Israel not to cross the boundaries of international law in its response to the Hamas terror attack.
In his apology, he said: "I unequivocally support Israel's right to exist and to defend itself. I unequivocally support a two-state solution.
"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.
"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."
Tickets for Web Summit range from £954 for general attendance up to £21,748 for a "chairperson" ticket which includes a "personal event fulfilment manager" and access to an exclusive lounge.
Web Summit attracts more than 70,000 people every year and employs 200 people at its Dublin headquarters and a further 100 globally. A new CEO is set to be elected before the Summit takes place in Lisbon next month.