Tech leaders boycott Europe’s biggest tech confab
Web Summit CEO's remarks spark backlash

Tech leaders boycott Europe’s biggest tech confab

"We at AI21 cannot be part of such indecency and moral bankruptcy. We will not attend Web Summit, and I will not give the keynote."

Web Summit in Lisbon. 
Photo: AFP/ Patricia de Melo Moreira
Web Summit in Lisbon. Photo: AFP/ Patricia de Melo Moreira

(TIMES OF ISRAEL) – Leading Israeli tech entrepreneurs and investors are cancelling their participation in Europe’s biggest tech conference, next month’s Web Summit, after the annual event’s founder appeared to accuse Israel of committing “war crimes” in its response to the Hamas terror group’s devastating onslaught.

A string of Israeli-founded tech unicorns and start-ups, including Wiz, Taboola, Lightricks, Bright Data, AI21 Labs, OpenWeb and start-up accelerator Y Combinator, have already announced their withdrawal from the tech conference, which gathers around 70,000 industry leaders, venture capitalists and start-up hopefuls in Lisbon, Portugal, every November.

The controversy began after Paddy Cosgrave, CEO of Web Summit, posted on social media platform X on Friday that he was “shocked at the rhetoric and actions of so many Western leaders and governments” relating to the Israel Defence Force’s military operation across the Gaza Strip aimed at dismantling its ruler, Hamas.

“War crimes are war crimes even when committed by allies, and should be called out for what they are,” Cosgrave asserted.

AI21 Labs CEO Ori Goshen, who was scheduled to be a keynote speaker at Web Summit Lisbon, called Cosgrave’s comments “abhorrent”.

“Beheading [Israeli] babies in front of their captive parents, raping women and parading them through Gaza’s streets, burning entire families alive, executing elderly women, filming all these horrors and gleefully posting them to social media, including on victims’ phones for their loved ones to see – but as immoral as that is, Paddy Cosgrave chose to not only ignore these but instead post something against the policies of the Israeli government,” Goshen said in a LinkedIn post.

“We at AI21 cannot be part of such indecency and moral bankruptcy. We will not attend Web Summit, and I will not give the keynote.”

Taboola founder and CEO Adam Singolda expressed his sadness to read Cosgrave’s comments.

“A week into the war, when mothers are seeing their babies burned alive by terrorists, when nearly 200 people are still kept hostage, away from their families, when Hamas which is worse than ISIS and Nazis combined because even Hitler didn’t burn babies … is just not a good time Paddy to be ‘right’ and you’re just wrong,” Singolda said. “I’m hopeful that you’ll consider changing your ways so humanity gets to witness there is good in all of us.

“I’ll never be part of your future initiatives and we’ll never work together again, and the truth is that I don’t matter as I’m only one Israeli guy, living in America, out of thousands who go to Web Summit – but I’ll feel better about myself and that matters too.”

On October 7, the day the war broke out, Cosgrove shared United Nations data on the human cost of the Israel–Palestine conflict between 2008 and 2023, making no reference at all to the atrocities perpetrated that day by Hamas in Israel.

In response to the backlash from the tech community, Cosgrave in a Sunday post said that what Hamas did was “outrageous and disgusting” and that Israel had the right to defend itself, but emphasised he was not going to “relent” over his comments that the country doesn’t have a right to “break international law”.

Israel’s ambassador to Portugal Dor Shapira called Cosgrave’s comments “outrageous”, adding that he had written to the mayor of Lisbon to inform him that Israel will not participate in the Web Summit conference.

“Dozens of companies have already cancelled their participation in this conference, and we encourage more to do so,” Shapira said. “We should have zero tolerance for terrorism and terror acts.”

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