Paddy Cosgrave, founder and chief executive of Europe’s largest annual technology conference, Web Summit, resigned on Saturday in a bid to quell a controversy surrounding his comments on the war between Israel and Hamas.
His departure comes after several major companies withdrew from this year’s event, scheduled for November 13-16 in Lisbon.
Cosgrave, an Irish entrepreneur who co-founded Web Summit in 2009, faced significant backlash for criticizing Western support for Israel’s military response to the October 7 attack by the militant group Hamas, which cost the lives of 1,400 people.
“War crimes remain war crimes, even when committed by allies,” Cosgrave says. wrote on social media on October 13, referring to the ongoing Israeli airstrikes and blockade of the Gaza Strip, which the UN warns could lead to mass starvation for the 2.3 million people living there. Cosgrave then followed up with a message condemning the Hamas attack.
Amid growing criticism from high-profile tech figures and investors, Cosgrave released a statement on the Web Summit blog on Tuesday to apologize and clarify his position.
“I unreservedly condemn the perverse, disgusting and monstrous attack by Hamas on October 7. I also call for the unconditional release of all hostages,” he wrote. “I unequivocally support Israel’s right to exist and defend itself…I also believe that in defending itself, Israel should adhere to international law and the Geneva Conventions, i.e. not commit war crimes.”
The apology was not enough to sway a list of major sponsors and headliners who announced they would boycott the Web Summit event, including tech heavyweights Meta, Google, Intel, Siemens and Amazon .
“Unfortunately, my personal comments have become a distraction from the event, our team, our sponsors, our start-ups and the people who participate,” Cosgrave said in a statement to CNN. “I once again sincerely apologize for any harm I have caused.”