Leading US tech figure's tweet arouses furor in Israel

Paul Graham  credit: Sarah Harlin, Wikipedia
Paul Graham credit: Sarah Harlin, Wikipedia

Paul Graham, co-founder of accelerator Y Combinator, wrote of "31 Israeli and at least 3600 Palestinian children... killed" without mentioning the October 7 attack.

A tweet by Paul Graham, one of the founders of US technology accelerator Y Combinator, has caused a stir in Israel. Y Combinator is one of the most prestigious and successful accelerators in the world. Among the companies that have graduated from it are Dropbox, Stripe, Airbnb, and Israeli company Deel.

On Saturday, Graham posted on his X account: "A grim month: 31 Israeli and at least 3600 Palestinian children have been killed since October 7." These are saddening figures that reflect the extent of death and destruction caused by the war in the Gaza Strip. The choice of this way of presenting the numbers, however, devoid of context and with no mention of the attack by Hamas that led to war, aroused angry responses on the part of Israeli investors and entrepreneurs, and on the other hand expressions of support, and even claims of a "new cancel culture" that prominent Israelis in the global technology industry are allegedly leading against anyone who posts anything critical of Israel.

Roee Adler, formerly of WeWork and co-founder of Santa, told "Globes": "At first I was very surprised by the post, because he really is a very well known figure and it was clear that he chose a one-sided narrative. I encounter a great many questions from people who have worked with Israelis and are terribly confused by what they hear about Israel on the media, and I want to stress that it’s important that, as Israelis, we should take part in these conversations and try to explain the background. There are many people who see the information that reaches them on Western media, and they know Israelis and are terribly confused by the gap between the people they know and the pictures they see, and we have to try to bridge the gap, and explain."

Amit Karp, a partner in the Israel office of US venture capital firm Bessemer Ventures, told "Globes": "It’s very regrettable to see this. The way the tweet was written, the unreliable information in it, the way it was presented without counting all the Israeli casualties in the terrible attack, and the linear comparison between a terrorist organization and the IDF, are mainly disappointing. I expected more from someone like him. It’s legitimate to care about the population in the Gaza Strip, particularly the children. But there are much better ways to do it."

Adam Fisher, Karp’s colleague at Bessemer, wrote in response to Graham’s tweet: "Today is the 29th day of the war, and Paul Graham has not yet mentioned that 1,400 Israelis were murdered and 240 Israelis were abducted on October 7. Not only does he use numbers manipulatively to arouse anger, he also relies on figures from Hamas."

It seems that, in an almost unprecedented way, politics is seeping unstoppably into the global technology industry. Many prominent people in the industry are Israeli, or formerly lived in Israel, and they find themselves, almost involuntarily, in the position of ambassadors for the country and having to explain what is happening, in the face of the spread of information that is often incorrect or that creates a distorted narrative.

Nevertheless, Karp told "Globes" that despite the sometimes difficult talk on social networks at present, which can have economic consequences, "as long as good companies continue to spring up in Israel, and I see no reason why that should change, I’m not concerned; in the end, the majority of people in the Western world, and particularly in the US, understand us and are supportive."

Published by Globes, Israel business news - en.globes.co.il - on November 6, 2023.

© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd., 2023.

Paul Graham  credit: Sarah Harlin, Wikipedia
Paul Graham credit: Sarah Harlin, Wikipedia
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