Web Summit CEO's comments on Israeli conflict 'war crimes' sparks boycott

Intel, Siemens, Google, Meta, and Stripe among event walkouts

Meta and Stripe have joined Google, Intel, and Siemens in a growing boycott of next month's Web Summit in Lisbon after the event's chief executive compared Israel's actions in response to attacks by Hamas as "war crimes."

The comments, made by Web Summit CEO Paddy Cosgrave earlier this week on social media, criticized the Israeli response and those that would support them.

"What Hamas did is outrageous and disgusting. It is by every measure an act of monstrous evil," he opined on LinkedIn. "Israel has a right to defend itself, but it does not, as I have already stated, have a right to break international law."

"To repeat: War crimes are war crimes even when committed by allies & should be called out for what they are. I will not relent," he added, commenting on the news that Israel had pulled its delegates from the conference after his earlier comments.

The posts appear to have created a bit of an optics problem for sponsors of the event, which previously has attracted more than 70,000 attendees as industry leaders fly in to chew the fat over tech in Lisbon, and then whatever else they can in the city's lovely restaurants. Intel and Siemens were among the first to pull out of the summit.

In a statement provided to The Register, Intel confirmed that it had "withdrawn from this year's Web Summit," but stopped short of connecting the decision back to Cosgrave's earlier comments. Intel, like many tech companies, has a sizable presence in Israel, where it employs 11,700 between its R&D and production facilities in Haifa, Petah Tikva, and Jerusalem.

German multinational Siemens meanwhile said in a statement that it had "reviewed the situation," and decided not to attend the event next month. Siemens, which had previously been listed as a top sponsor of the event, has since disappeared from the summit's partner page.

Google issued a similar statement: "We will no longer have a presence at Web Summit." We're also told Meta will no longer be attending the event. Finance biz Stripe confirmed that it too wouldn't be going next month.

The boycott comes despite Cosgrave's attempts to diffuse the situation with a written apology earlier this for his comments, which we'll note still appear on this Linkedin profile.

"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," he said.

"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."

It's not the first time Cosgrave's online antics have got him into trouble. In February, April, and November last year Cosgrave was on the end of three lawsuits over comments he made on the platform formerly known as Twitter. ®


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