West News Wire: Following a barrage of criticism for remarks he made in public accusing Israel of committing “war crimes” and breaking international law, the CEO of a major technology conference resigned.
Co-founder of the European digital conference Web Summit, which is held in Lisbon, Portugal and brings together hundreds of top internet startups and companies, Paddy Cosgrave quit on Saturday following criticism from attendees and sponsors. He expressed his regret for “any hurt” he had caused and claimed his personal opinions had become a “distraction from the event.”
Irish businessman Cosgrave, who started Web Summit in 2009, voiced his opinions on Israel’s continuing bombing campaign in Gaza on the social media network X, formerly known as Twitter. According to local authorities, the campaign has killed more than about 4,400 Palestinians, mostly civilians, and devastated much of the territory’s infrastructure.
“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 said in his post on October 13. “War crimes are war crimes even when committed by allies, and should be called out for what they are.”
He continued, saying, “I also think Israel should respect international law and the Geneva Conventions when defending itself, meaning it shouldn’t commit war crimes. This idea holds true for every state in every conflict. Even in cases where a nation is the target of crimes, it should not violate these laws.
A number of important sponsors and event stars, including tech giants Meta, Google, and Stripe, declared they would boycott the event after the follow-up posts failed to sway them over.
Web Summit informed the Associated Press news agency that it intends to move forward with the November event while recruiting a new CEO.
With many professionals and students facing backlash for publicly expressing their opinions on the Israel-Hamas conflict, Cosgrave resigned.
In recent weeks, more than a dozen business executives have pledged to blacklist Harvard students who belong to groups that signed a letter blaming Israel for the latest outbreak of violence, while several journalists have been suspended or fired due to posts that are critical of Israel or express pro-Palestinian views.
Rights advocates say much of the corporate response has minimised the suffering in Gaza and created an atmosphere of fear for workers who want to express support for Palestinians. Jewish groups have criticised tepid responses or slow reactions to the Hamas attack on October 7.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations, the largest Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organisation in the country, denounced the backlash against the students and statements from US corporate leaders that “lack any meaningful display of sympathy toward Palestinian civilians”.
Those reactions combined, the organisation said, are leaving “Palestinians and those in support of Palestinian human rights isolated at their place of work and fearful of possible consequences” for discussing how the conflict has affected them.
In a letter released on Friday, dozens of Hollywood A-listers, including Cate Blanchett and Susan Sarandon, urged President Joe Biden to call for a ceasefire in Gaza.