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Investment In Israeli Tech Startups Soars Despite Gaza War

Matam High-Tech park in Haifa. (Zvi Roger)

Matam High-Tech park in Haifa. (Zvi Roger)

Investment in Israeli tech startups has soared of late despite the Jewish state’s ongoing war in Gaza and threats of rocket attacks by Hamas and other militant resistance groups.

Bloomberg reports investors have poured nearly $600 million into nascent Israeli tech firms since Operation Protective Edge, Israel’s latest war against Gaza resistance, began on July 8.

Even as Israeli tech workers are forced to bolt from their desks down into underground bomb shelters as rockets launched from Gaza periodically rain down over their cities and towns, investment has been steadily — and increasingly — boosting the country’s many startups.

On paper, it’s nearly impossible to tell there’s a war on in Gaza (although much of the Israeli arms industry is enjoying a nice stock surge). On Friday, for example, Mobileye, a Jerusalem-based firm that develops automobile crash avoidance video technology, went public on the New York Stock Exchange, offering 35.6 million shares at $25 apiece. Mobileye raised $889.7 million, the largest-ever US listing for an Israeli company.

Some Israeli tech industry players claim the war, which has left Israel relatively unscathed (compared to Gaza, where more than 1,800 people, mostly innocent civilians, have been killed and the infrastructure has been utterly obliterated), has actually been a boon to business.

“All of this pressure in Israel doesn’t distract people, it makes them more resilient,” Michael Eisenberg, a venture capitalist at Benchmark and Aleph, told Bloomberg.

“The first lesson we have learned is that adversity and tough mental and physical conditions produce stronger and successful companies,” added Esther Loewy, founder and CEO of Upround Ventures, an Israeli early-stage investment firm.

Even backlash from some global tech industry leaders over Israel’s ferocious Gaza offensive can’t stop Israeli tech firms from taking off. If anything, the opposite seems to be happening. Last month, Israeli venture capitalist Roi Carthy pulled his support for Y Combinator, which has helped companies like Airbnb and Dropbox achieve superstar status, over founder Paul Graham’s pro-Palestinian tweets.

Israel is one of the world’s leading tech hubs. In addition to local established firms and startups, the nation is home to a thriving cyber-security industry, and many Silicon Valley and other US tech companies have Israeli branches or research and development centers.

Sometimes this creates controversy and problems, as in the case of Hewlett-Packard, the Palo Alto, California-based computer giant that has been targeted by the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement over its complicity in Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestine. HP provides products and services for the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), which has committed many serious human rights violations, as well as for illegal Israeli settler colonies.

HP also supplies Israel with biometric scanners and ID cards used to control the movement of Palestinians living in the illegally occupied territories.

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