Why and How Investors Can Fight Terror

You can choose to do nothing, but it’s hard to advocate for that.

An Israeli personnel carrier drives on the Gaza-Israel border amid ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian group Hamas. Photo by Ilia Yefimovich/picture alliance via Getty Images

Historically, many investors have tried hard to be apolitical. But American political dysfunction has forced many of us (including me) to become active in domestic politics, and the Hamas War forces many of us to fight Hamas.

You might think I condemn Hamas because I am Jewish and Israeli. But that is not the reason.

  • First, deliberately massacring civilians–terrorism–is fundamentally evil and unjustifiable. I feel complicit if I don’t take an unmistakable stance on this. Pentagon chief Lloyd Austin said Hamas’s atrocities are “worse than what I saw with ISIS.” Hamas is a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, Christianophobic organization. 
  • Second, if terrorism succeeds in Israel, others will use terrorism elsewhere. I was in Manhattan on 9/11. Hamas and its allies Iran cheered 9/11 and welcomed encore performances.
  • Third, as a venture capitalist, my job is figuring out how to support our portfolio companies globally. That also includes thinking about how to protect our companies and those who work for them from harm and how to influence the political environment so they’re set up for success.  

There are, of course, risks to investors getting involved in politics. You might alienate certain limited partners (backers of funds). But I’ll quote a VC I know, who said “You have a right to your opinion, and I have a right to filter my personal and professional networks down to those on the side of humanity.” I also find that most limited partners invest in people with wildly different political views if they think they can make money.  

Similarly, during the 2016 and 2020 elections, many VCs (including me) publicly endorsed one of the Presidential candidates. I’m unaware of any who experienced significant downsides from doing so, and many received praise from their peers for publicly taking a (small) risk.

At the same time as I deplore Hamas, I am in great pain for the many Palestinian people who do not support Hamas, are suffering tremendously, and have only limited ability to fight Hamas using them as cannon fodder and human shields. Civilian deaths are inevitable in war. But for Hamas, civilian Palestinian deaths are a feature, not a bug. As Mona Charen wrote, “Hamas Makes War on [both] Israelis and Palestinians.” 

A non-Jewish VC with a large social media following asked me, “If you were me and wanted to support Israel, what would you do?”  

You can choose to do nothing, but it’s hard to advocate for that. There are a lot of loud voices out there publishing misinformation; we need voices advocating facts. If you took action on Black Lives Matter, LBGTQ rights, the January 6 insurrection, Dobbs vs. Jackson, the Ukraine War… then opposing arbitrary killing and torture of civilians should be easy. 

What you should NOT do: post a wishy-washy text about how there are two sides to every conflict, and you’re saddened for everyone. Don’t commit the Sin of Moral Equivalence

I’ve talked with many allies, and I’ve identified steps you can take if you’re comfortable coming “out of the closet,” if you prefer to be more discreet, or even if you’re a student/young person and feel like you have neither capital nor influence. 

Here are some easy steps investors can take to support Israel on a public platform:

If you are comfortable putting some money behind your beliefs:

If you’re not comfortable taking a public stance, you can take other steps to support Israel:

  • Lobby executives at X, Meta, Bytedance, Youtube, and other social media companies to stop the flow of hate and misinformation. We’re all bearing the cost of the pollution these companies let flow. This is the second most important battlefield after the physical land itself.
  • Ask your companies to protect their brand from association with misleading news. If you run programmatic or retargeting ads through Google or other vendors, your ads are most likely funding content you’d find abhorrent.

Even students or others who feel like they don’t have capital or influence can impact this war: 

Lastly, traditional Jews believe that the world treats us as we treat others. If you speak and take actions of lovingkindness, you are more likely to receive mercy in turn. In this bloody war, people of all religions need benevolence.

Disclosures: David Teten lived in Israel for three years and was CEO of an Israeli startup. Links are not endorsements. Thanks to Gina Gotthilf for providing some of the sample text and names above, and for inspiring this post. Thanks to Ben Luria, Jonathan ‘Yoni’ Frenkel, and many others for thoughtful feedback.)

This article originally appeared on Teten.com, the author’s blog.

Recommended further reading:

Opinion

Palestinian/Arab voices

The tech industry and the Hamas War

How business leaders can impact policy

Background

Why and How Investors Can Fight Terror