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To Comment Or Not to Comment: Israel-Hamas Conflict Challenges Employers

On October 7, Hamas invaded Israel to murder and kidnap over a thousand Israeli citizens and injure over a thousand more. Israel responded with military strikes and a continuing invasion of Gaza that has killed thousands of Palestinian civilians, destroyed their communities, and left a dire humanitarian crisis for food, medicine, and water.

Since these events began, companies have responded in diverse ways. Initially, company leaders like Amazon’s Andy Jassy condemned Hamas’s act. According to a tally by Yale University, more than 150 companies issued statements condemning the initial attack by Hamas. Blowback was quick for those individuals who spoke out against Israel. The C.E.O. of Web Summit (a European tech conference) publicly criticized Israel and stepped down after major sponsors and speakers pulled out. A top Creative Artists Agency agent resigned her leadership roles after negatively commenting about Israel on social media. The editor-in-chief of eLife, a biomedical and life sciences journal, was fired for criticizing academic institutions for failing to speak out in support of Palestinian civilians. Michael Eisen, the former editor-in-chief, is Jewish. Five editors from the publication announced their resignation in response, while other scientists said they would not participate in eLife events. Some scientists expressed concerns about the “chilling effect” on freedom of speech in academia.

As the conflict continues, some companies try to walk the line between denouncing Hamas' attacks and the rising antisemitism while also calling for a cease-fire and speaking against Islamophobia. Google CEO Sundar Pichai issued a public statement ten days after the initial attack that expressly addressed antisemitism and Islamaphobia, providing donation plans to support groups connected to Israelis and Palestinians. According to one publication, Google is one of just 10% of companies that responded more than once to the conflict. A crisis communication manager interviewed by Axios recommended against putting out a public statement unless the conflict impacts the business or there is something meaningful to say. This expert suggests focusing on internal communications with employees to ensure they feel supported.