Paddy Cosgrave, the founder and chief executive of Europe’s largest annual technology conference, Web Summit, resigned on Saturday in an effort to quell a controversy surrounding comments he made on the Israel-Hamas war.
His departure came after several major companies withdrew from this year’s event, which is 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 claimed the lives of 1,400 people.
“War crimes are war crimes, even when committed by allies,” Cosgrave wrote on social media on October 13, referring to Israel’s ongoing airstrikes and blockade of the Gaza Strip, which the U.N. has warned could lead to mass starvation of the 2.3 million people living there. Cosgrave later followed up with a message condemning the Hamas attack.
Amid growing criticism from leading technology figures and investors, Cosgrave posted a statement on the Web Summit blog on Tuesday to apologize and clarify his position.
“I unreservedly condemn Hamas’ evil, disgusting and monstrous October 7 attack. I also call for the unconditional release of all hostages,” he wrote. “I unequivocally support Israel’s right to exist and to 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, and our team, our sponsors, our start-ups and the people who attend,” Cosgrave said in a statement to CNN. “I sincerely apologise again for any hurt I have caused.”