German Deputy Chancellor Robert Habeck has canceled his participation in next week's controversial Web Summit tech conference in Lisbon. The conference founder Paddy Cosgrave raised hackles last month with anti-Israel comments and criticism of what he saw as Israeli war crimes while calling for support of the Palestinians in Gaza. After stirring up a storm he apologized and resigned as Web Summit CEO but the venture he founded was left in a difficult situation.
Hundreds of members of the Israel High-Tech Forum, who had already withdrawn their participation from the conference, along with many US tech giants like Google, Amazon, Intel and TikTok, sent a letter to Deputy German Chancellor and Minister of Economic Affairs Robert Habeck, a member of the Greens party, urging him to withdraw from the conference in Portugal. Last week Habeck made a speech asserting Israel's right to defend itself and charging Hamas with overall responsibility for the current conflict and called on the German left and the entire nation to combat antisemitism, which has soared since the start of the war.
The Israel High-Tech forum wrote him that due to his stance on the matter his participation in Web Summit aroused "deep bewilderment," after the comments by Cosgrave.
The company is making every effort to save the conference
Although Cosgrave has left the company operating the tech conference, he still holds 80% of its shares, so that he would benefit from the huge profits made by the event.
The letter sent to Habeck by the Israel High-Tech Forum, which was seen by "Globes," said, "Your continued connection with the Web Summit event, following recent developments, sends a double message, especially to the Israeli community here, which is associated with a great contribution to the economy and industry in Germany. We ask you to join leaders from all over the world, who have taken a stand by canceling their participation. By taking this step, you can confirm your commitment to the principles of fairness, respect, humanism and the democratic values that are so fundamental to the German Federal Republic."
Reports on tech websites show that the company is "trying with all its might to try to save the summit by recruiting big names to appear as keynote speakers, after several cancellations." The company has appointed a replacement for Cosgrave and promised that some of the companies that announced the cancellation of participation would indeed appear, but refused to provide names. It is not only about the summit in Lisbon next week, but also about future events. Among other things, the company receives funding from the government of Qatar, which hosts senior Hamas officials, to hold technology summits in Doha as well.
Habeck attributed his cancellation to attend Web Summit to the resignation of Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Costa, following a corruption scandal. However, journalists who were due to accompany Habeck to Lisbon said that "The discussion on the substance of the conference also played a part."
Published by Globes, Israel business news - en.globes.co.il - on November 9, 2023.
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