After more than 18 years’ experience of Hamas rule next door in Gaza, countless rocket attacks on Israeli homes and aid money lavished on weapons and hate propaganda, we in Israel did not need proof of the senseless brutality of its jihadist regime.
But the savage, cold-blooded murder, torture, beheading and rape of more than 1,400 Israelis, with the brutal kidnapping of 222 more perpetrated by Hamas terrorists on October 7 revealed to the world the raw viciousness of our neighbors’ rulers and their henchmen.
The free world and its tech community now sees the true nature of Hamas exposed, and have a visceral appreciation of the threat it presents – like ISIS and Al-Qaida before it – not just to Israel but, if it is allowed to fester, to democracy, freedom and technological progress across the region.
Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005, hoping that ending the occupation would start a process toward reconciliation. After winning a Palestinian election in 2006, Hamas overthrew its rivals in a violent, bloody coup in 2007 and, in place of democracy, imposed a theocratic dictatorship ruled by a shadowy religious council and reinforced by thousands of armed militia and secret police.
Instead of spending the vast amounts of foreign aid lavished on Gaza on education, welfare and technology, the Hamas government raided the meager resources of its own people, diverting billions into weapons, rockets, explosives and reinforced underground bunkers, which it used to launch repeated cross-border attacks on Israeli civilians that went largely unreported outside the country.
Until October 7.
Everyone in Israel knows someone who was murdered, tortured, wounded or abducted that day. Eyal Waldman, founder of Nvidia’s Mellanox, lost his daughter Danielle and her partner Noam who were gunned down at the Supernova music festival, where some 260 innocent partygoers were slaughtered in cold blood. My friend Izhar Shay, a leader of Israel’s high-tech community and a former minister of science and technology, lost his son Yaron who was killed while heroically defending a community in southern Israel against the Hamas onslaught. The nephew of my OurCrowd colleague Or Angrest, and the son of my friend Jon Polin, founder of Abe’s Market, are among the 222-plus Israelis kidnapped by Hamas and taken to Gaza.
Meanwhile, Israeli startups are feeling the effect of 10-25% of their staff called up to reserve duty, while founders, venture capitalists and engineers who haven’t been called up are contributing by donating funds to help equip reservists with better gear, and are organizing support for people who lost family members in the attacks.
As I observed at the outbreak of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last year, the choice facing the free world then was between Ukraine, a young, newly democratic nation with a nimble tech sector led by world-beating companies and an ecosystem hosting some of the startup world’s finest engineers, versus Russia, a corrupt, kleptocratic dictatorship determined to drag the region back into a dark and brutal past.
The stark contrast between Israel and Hamas is just as clear, and the global tech community has chosen to side with the forces of democracy and progress.
A Who’s Who of 800 venture capital firms have signed a joint statement backing Israel and calling for the global investor community to support the tech ecosystem in the country, which accounts for nearly 20% of its gross domestic product and 50% of its exports. In earnings calls, CEOs of US corporations expressed strong support for Israel with UBS, Jefferies, Goldman Sachs, and Delta Air Lines all announcing millions of dollars in aid to Israeli charities to help victims of the Hamas atrocities. In Israel, Mobileye, JFrog and Overwolf led tech companies raising donations to help shattered Israeli communities near Gaza. Google CEO Sundar Pichai, Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg, Apple CEO Tim Cook, Amazon CEO Andy Jesse, and Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella all condemned the Hamas attack.
The global tech community also roared into action to confront Paddy Cosgrove, who was forced to resign as CEO of Web Summit after Intel, Meta and Google cancelled their participation, along with multiple speakers, sponsors and companies in response to his vile comments belittling the horrors perpetrated by Hamas.
And then came US President Joe Biden. For decades, the US and Israel have enjoyed a very special relationship on multiple levels, sharing values, culture, defense, technology and tourism. But Joe Biden’s outspoken and clear-sighted leadership since October 7 has elevated the bond to a whole new level. Starting with a rare address from the White House, followed by the deployment of US aircraft carriers to Israel’s Mediterranean shores and culminating in his courageous arrival in Israel in the midst of rocket attacks from Gaza, Biden sounded more like an Old Testament prophet than a modern politician, providing an unequivocal voice of moral authority as he called on the world to choose between good and evil.
“I come to Israel with a single message: You are not alone,” Biden told us in Tel Aviv. “You are not alone. As long as the United States stands — and we will stand forever — we will not let you ever be alone.”
“October 7th, which was a sacred Jewish holiday, became the deadliest day for the Jewish people since the Holocaust. It has brought to the surface painful memories and scars left by a millennia of antisemitism and the genocide of the Jewish people,” he said, capturing the feelings of every Jew I know. “The world watched then, it knew, and the world did nothing. We will not stand by and do nothing again. Not today, not tomorrow, not ever.”
Biden’s visit resonated deeply with ordinary Israelis. One person I know was watching him live on TV with a group of hardened commandos at an Israeli army base, where every soldier in the room was reduced to tears.
Happening Now: President Biden addresses the people of Israel in Tel Aviv.
Posted by The White House on Wednesday, October 18, 2023
Biden’s leadership, and parallel visits from President Macron of France, Chancellor Scholz of Germany, Prime Minister Sudak of Britain, Prime Minister Rutte of Holland, Prime Minister Mistotakis of Greece, President Christolidoulides of Cyprus, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, and Prime Minister Meloni of Italy, had an impact beyond politics.
For Jews in Israel and around the world, Hamas’s sadistic rampage on October 7 reawakened dark memories of European pogroms, Kristallnacht and the Holocaust, when defenseless Jews felt abandoned and alone. This time, as barbaric terror tore through our friends and neighbors, we were not alone. We felt the free world standing with us. Even President Zelensky of Ukraine took the time to express his total solidarity with the victims of the Hamas atrocity.
So the Biden effect was not just about financial aid and military assistance – although we immediately saw its importance when US forces shot down three cruise missiles and several drones aimed at Israel from Iran-backed forces in Yemen.
This time, in stark contrast to previous Jewish history, Biden and the other leaders came in person to assure us that the days of abandonment were over.
In the finest, most moving demonstration I have yet seen of our super-connected world, the global tech community has loudly delivered the same message. This is not just about money. It’s about the deep support, sentiment, and friendship that Israel’s startup nation feels with the tech community worldwide, and which, at our darkest hour, has proved to be more than just words.
Israel’s tech ecosystem is unique. More than 80% of investment in Israeli technology comes from abroad – whether through individual investors, family offices, institutions and VCs investing directly in startups, or through multinational corporations acquiring or investing in Israeli startups. I cannot think of another tech ecosystem that does not source 80% or more of its funding domestically. It’s the inverse of the normal pyramid.
This global strategic depth is Israel’s Ace in the hole. Investors flock to Israel because we deliver great returns and some of the finest technology in the world. But we also stand on the front line of a struggle for the future, in a fight to the death against an evil that could destroy all that we have achieved.
With the global tech community and the world’s leading democracies behind us, we know we will win, and continue with our mission to build Israel’s innovation ecosystem that promises a better world for all.