Paddy Cosgrave, the chief executive of Web Summit, stepped down Saturday after several Big Tech companies withdrew from the company’s upcoming annual technology conference over his comments on the Israel-Hamas war.
“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.”
His resignation comes a little more than a week after comments posted on X, formerly Twitter, condemning Israel’s war in Gaza. On October 13, he wrote, in part: “War crimes are war crimes even when committed by allies, and should be called out for what they are.”
Cosgrave also denounced the October 7 attacks by Hamas militants that killed an estimated 1,400 people in Israel, according to authorities.
In the two weeks since the attacks, Israeli forces have bombarded Gaza with relentless airstrikes, killing at least 4,385 people, according to the Ministry of Health in the Hamas-controlled coastal enclave, and tipping the enclave into a humanitarian crisis.
A day before Cosgrave’s post on X, human rights group Amnesty International said the “collective punishment” of civilians in Gaza for Hamas’ terrorist atrocities amounts to a war crime. The Israeli military says it does not target civilians and has warned residents to evacuate parts of Gaza.
On Tuesday, Cosgrave posted a nearly 600-word statement on Web Summit’s blog to apologize and clarify his stance.
“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 unequivocally support a two-state solution. … I also believe that, in defending itself, Israel should adhere to international law and the Geneva Conventions – ie, not commit war crimes.”
But his initial comments had been met with swift backlash from tech giants including Google parent company Alphabet, Meta, Siemens and Amazon, all of which pulled out of the conference. This year’s conference was scheduled for November 13-16 in Lisbon.
CNN has reached out to these companies but has not received a response.
A spokesperson for Web Summit told CNN that the company will appoint a new CEO as soon as possible. “Web Summit 2023 in Lisbon will go ahead as planned,” the spokesperson added.
Cosgrave, 41, co-founded Web Summit in 2009 with David Kelly and Daire Hickey.