Naim Segal speaks passionately, urgency in his voice, a desperate need for action. Naim (53), a veteran entrepreneur, has been the executive director of the Association of High-Tech Workers since last week, which fights against threats to Israel’s democracy. This association includes hundreds of people from different fields, including a headquarters with dozens of volunteer activists. “As soon as I was asked and received leadership of the struggle, I agreed. It’s like being asked after an earthquake how long it will take me to get out of the house to help rescue people from the rubble,” he said. Calcalist
“There is no time. We have already raised several million shekels, the phone is ringing all day with people saying, just tell me where to transfer the money and what to do.” They tell me they want to fight because they don’t want to leave the country.”
Suddenly, Israel’s high-tech industry seems more politically active than ever.
“Yes. We’re sorry we just woke up, but we’re here now. Each demonstration costs about half a million shekels, and we’ll provide everything: transportation, flags, production equipment. We’re not here for just three demonstrations. But to get this bulldozer out of our house, people know that this is an ongoing war against democracy. The party that wants to destroy democracy in Israel has been trying to do this for over ten years. “Look. It’s real. And we just woke up.”
“I’m donating, I’m donating, I’m donating from everyone I know, everyone who’s active on the staff has put their hand in their pocket. There’s an insane amount of giving here, both in terms of money and time. People. There are hundreds of thousands of shekels from their personal accounts to fight and there are people who hung signs in Kaplan (the street where the main Tel Aviv protest was held last week).”
It does not end there. In addition to the fact that the high-tech sector is now an important source of funding for the struggle, the headquarters, which works in coordination with the protest headquarters, also organizes lectures by lawyers who explain the reforms to higher authorities. Accompany technology staff and any related protest initiatives. This week, for example, they helped organize a one-hour work stoppage on Tuesday and accompanied a demonstration that day, again on Kaplan Avenue, near a high-tech central complex.
When it comes to Israeli high-tech workers, the mobilization is surprising. This is a group that largely abhors anything that even smacks of personal supremacy and maximum separation between the individual and the state. An island of entrepreneurship and money, whose people were not often involved in lawsuits or legal battles across the country. The general public sometimes sees them as broken and broken, not those who go out to put up signs. And now thousands of them, if not more, are protesting and some are not content with this and are playing a role in the organization.
“This is the first time this sector has organized in a systematic way,” admits Michal Tesor (49), the founder of Kaltura and an activist. “Many people who have never participated in the activities are now coming forward. They are all concerned, both as citizens and as high-tech entrepreneurs. They say about Israeli entrepreneurs that we know how to get through walls – the new government’s reforms The biggest and most important wall right now.”
When women have no representation
This activity – and this is not obvious in advanced technologies – is led by women. Alongside Naim and Tesor at the headquarters is Yudeft Harel Bokris, director of Blumberg VC in Israel. Rona Segev, Managing Partner at TLV Partners. Anat Nashitz, co-founder of OrbiMed, who “brought the entire life sciences industry here,” as they say at HQ. and Einat Guez, co-founder and CEO of Papaya, who also spoke at last weekend’s rally. The high-tech industry is entering the fray, and women are its leading soldiers. “Women are leading, because in the current government, women are less present, and this has provoked reactions,” Tessor says. There is an understanding that no one represents our interests. “After all the reforms, in the next election they can say that women cannot run.”
Entrepreneurs know how to formulate ideas and raise funding. We think outside the box about what actions to take. I hope the other side will look at things with a balanced perspective. They understand that this is the country that should be. “Even those who claim that judicial system reform will not harm democracy should know that if it comes to fruition, it will hurt their pockets.”
But the whole matter is not yet finalized, it is easy for reform supporters to claim that you are exaggerating, that you are panicking.
“These are not prophecies of anger, we hear the clamor. Israel is currently at a disadvantage due to security uncertainty, and in the last few days there has been data from venture capital funds that are collecting money, and it is clear that investors are freezing. Foreign investors and foreign board members in high-tech Israeli companies have been asked to take immediate steps to secure their cash balances. Investors see, for example, a tax on pharmaceutical company profits that The Hungarian government imposed a month ago, and they fear that one day they will impose a tax on high-tech companies.
Do you also have thoughts on tax revolt?
“There’s no need for a tax riot, we’re all law-abiding citizens and there’s no point in a quick fix anyway. However, if things continue, the government will simply tax the industry less. That’s exactly what We want to make it clear to everyone – all citizens will be affected, this is not just an attack on high tech.
There are mixed opinions on the tax revolt issue, but it’s a small step compared to some of the ideas presented in the brainstorming sessions. These are people who make money from taking risks, so they are forward thinking.
“I am fighting for my children, but for the high-tech sector without which there is no economic justification for Israel’s existence,” says Einat Guez (42). “If all of us, the leaders of high-tech companies, took out even 20% of the money we have in the banks in one day, they would collapse. Also imagine what that would do to the dollar and the state of the banks. And that right It is my duty, and even my duty, to transfer the money to the banks of democratic countries.”
You were attacked for this
“Yes, all the twitter bots hammered me, I’ve been attacked since Saturday, I’m constantly blocking more bots.”
What is your goal? After all, when you want to save Israel’s economy, you don’t want to hurt it.
True, we realized how different running a company and social struggle are: now there is no dialogue with the other side, there is a clear indifference. Have clear KPIs,” he laughs. “Key performance indicators” is a common term that refers to measuring the company’s performance. We are still in the MVP (minimum viable product) phase, a feasibility study for a product. In the name of the active participation of the high-tech sector in the war against democracy.
One of the first to get involved is Mittal Levy Tal, 48, owner of a high-tech public relations firm and former vice president of a public relations firm specializing in social struggles. About a month ago, he was one of the drafters of the “Hi-Tech Staff Letter” with Erez Shachar, managing partner of the venture capital fund Qumra, when Justice Minister Yario Levin’s reforms had not yet been published and there was fear. It was “only” discrimination against minorities. Since then, he sees the gap only widening: “After the reforms were proposed, people understood their importance and also their weight in society.”
Obviously, this fight causes sensitivity in companies, because it is clear that not all employees support this activity. However, Guez has no doubts: “This is not a political protest and it doesn’t matter what I voted in the election, because nobody voted for regime change. I’m sure there are employees who have no vote. The problem with reforms Yes, but as the CEO I also have the right to decide what color to paint the walls and what Cornflex to buy. So now it’s my responsibility to look after the workplace of all the employees so that we don’t do that. Massive layoffs were resorted to.”