Paddy Cosgrave returns to Web Summit after resigning over Israel criticism

Cosgrave resigned as CEO in October after backlash to post accusing Israel of committing war crimes in Gaza.

web summit
Paddy Cosgrave has returned to the Web Summit tech conference he co-founded in 2009 [Pedro Nunes/Reuters]

The co-founder of one of the world’s largest tech conferences has returned as chief executive six months after stepping down amid a backlash over comments he made criticising Israel.

Paddy Cosgrave said on Monday that being away from the annual Web Summit had given him time to think about the event and “why I started it on my own from my bedroom and what I wanted it to be”.

“I took the time to reconnect with old Web Summit friends and I listened to what they had to say and what they wanted from Web Summit,” Cosgrave said in a post on X.

“Some incredible tech advancements, relationships, partnerships, and companies have grown from our events and I want to continue building on this. If anything I want to supercharge this mission even further to build even stronger communities within Web Summit.”

Cosgrave said he hoped to make the summit more intimate and community-focused in future.

“We will seed small communities at our events, and then help those communities thrive long after each event,” he said, adding that he was excited for the future with loads more to share.

Cosgrave, who co-founded the Web Summit in 2009, did not make any reference to the controversy sparked by his comments about Israel.

Cosgrave stepped down as head of the Lisbon-based conference in October after coming under fire over a social media post he wrote accusing Israel of committing war crimes in Gaza.

“I’m shocked at the rhetoric and actions of so many Western leaders & governments, with the exception in particular of Ireland’s government, who for once are doing the right thing,” Cosgrave said in the post on X.

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

Cosgrave’s remarks led a number of tech firms, including Google, Amazon, Meta, Stripe and Siemens, to announce their withdrawal from the conference.

In a statement clarifying his comments at the time, Cosgrave said he unreservedly condemned Hamas’s “disgusting and monstrous” attack on Israel on October 7 and that he supported Israel’s right to defend itself, but the country should follow international law.

The Irish entrepreneur later announced his resignation, saying his comments had become a “distraction from the event”.

Former Wikimedia Foundation CEO Katherine Maher took over from Cosgrave before stepping down last month to become CEO of National Public Radio in the United States.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies