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:
- Publish a statement supporting Israel and opposing Hamas on your social channels, keeping it simple but clear. You’re preceded by General Catalyst, Rishi Sunak, Sam Lesson, Satay Nadella, Jason Calacanis, Keith Rabois, First Round, Sundar Pichai, Marc Benioff, Alfred Lin, Greylock, Doug Leone, Eric Yuan, All Raise, and many other prominent investors. You can add yourself to the allies list at TechCondemningTerror.com . Yale SOM is tracking the companies who have condemned Hamas here.
- Follow and share content from fact-based, anti-terrorism voices, and ask your followers to do the same. For content, see StandwithIsrael.today and Stand4israel.net.
- Join over 700 other VCs and sign the VC Community Statement of Support for Israel. Sign up here.
If you are comfortable putting some money behind your beliefs:
- Invest in Israel and Israeli companies. The Hamas War is forcing a massive wave of innovation that will rapidly create business opportunities. The Israeli tech community has spun up some nonprofit vehicles, e.g., Iron Nation and SAFE Dome, specifically to help Israeli startups as their teams defend Israel.
- Incubate or invest in startups with a social impact, e.g., see Seeking CEO+team for VC-backed startup: Make America Functional Again.
- Contribute to the people on the ground who are suffering. Use IsraelGives to find vetted charities. To support the Palestinian people without supporting Hamas, we suggest Americares or Save the Children.
- Thank and donate to those elected leaders supporting Israel, including the great majority of US political leaders, red and blue. You can message your elected officials here.
- Ask the companies you work with to condemn Hamas and provide mental health and security support for their distraught employees of all backgrounds. Emphasize DEI training needs to take antisemitism seriously. See Help For Those Struggling At Work With The Horror In Israel. Here’s a template letter: Steps <Our Company> Can Take to Support Israel.
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:
- Ask the universities you’re associated with if they have condemned Hamas. See sample petitions from Cornell, Harvard, Columbia, Yale, U. Chicago, and Stanford. More resources are available at CampusFairness and the AMCHA Initiative.
- Report misinformation on social media. You can use Project T.R.U.T.H., an AI-powered, fact-checking, anti-Hamas app, and report misinformation via Words of Iron and Canary Mission.
- Join the Startup Reserves for Israel or American Students for Israeli Start-Ups, a global force of thousands of people leaning in to provide services to fill gaps in Israel’s startup workforce. Similarly, the Frontline Initiative recruits investors, early adopter customers, and potential employees of Israeli companies.
- Check-in on your friends-Israeli, Jewish, Arab, and Muslim. This is a tough time, and a simple WhatsApp message goes a long way.
- Learn more about the background of this war. See recommended reading here.
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.)
Recommended further reading:
- I Might Have Once Favored a Cease-Fire With Hamas, but Not Now (New York Times)
- Hamas’s Control of Gaza Must End Now (New York Times)
- The Self-Destruction of Hamas (The New Republic)
- What this War is About (Times of Israel)
- The Sin of Moral Equivalence (podcast version) (Sam Harris)
- Why won’t the Jews just let themselves be killed?
- The logic equating the October 7 murders with civilian deaths in Gaza was tested in Nuremberg in the ’40s. It was rejected without hesitation
- I was an anti-Zionist. Then I saw what Assad did to Syrians—and to Palestinians in Syria
- Hamas Charter (Wikipedia). “When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.” (Maya Angelou)
- An Arab Muslim addresses the claims about Israel being an apartheid state (Sophia Shramko, AI Product @ Amazon AWS; also see her letter to her Stanford GSB classmates
- Gaza Could Have Been Singapore. Hamas Turned It Into ISIS (Newsweek)
- Many Palestinians in Gaza hate Hamas. My father certainly did (CNN)
- I’m a Palestinian in the West Bank. Hamas Alone Is Responsible for Any Bloodshed in Gaza (Newsweek)
- The Arab world thinks differently about this war (Economist)
- Son of Hamas leader calls the militant movement a ‘racist terror organization (Washington Post)
The tech industry and the Hamas War
- Generative AI called up for duty (Calcalist)
- Free Funding for Impact Startups
- The Anti-Israel BDS Movement Will Fail
How business leaders can impact policy
- How Non-Partisan Business Leaders Can Help Fix America (David Teten)
- Partisan Activism 101 for Investors and Executives (David Teten)
- You Are a Soldier in Israel’s Social Media Front (Aish)
- Will the United States be the Next Israel? (Politico)
- On Strategy, Law, and Morality in Israel’s Gaza Operation (Lawfare)
- Myths & Facts: A Guide to the Arab-Israeli Conflict, by Mitchell Bard (online book)
- Israel at War Backgrounder (AJC)
- The Hamas Network in America: A Short History (George Washington University)
- Israel: A Concise History of a Nation Reborn (book)