Sep 1, 2022 - News

Group of Google workers wants an end to contract with Israeli government

Bicyclist outside Google HQ.
Photo: Michael Short/Getty Images

A group of employees at Google is calling on the company to end its artificial intelligence contract with the Israeli government.

Driving the news: Employee Ariel Koren resigned this week after she said Google tried to retaliate against her for opposing Project Nimbus, a $1.2 billion artificial intelligence and computing services agreement between Google, Amazon Web Services, and the Israeli government and military, the New York Times reports.

  • At an Alphabet Workers Union-led press conference outside Google's San Francisco headquarters, a small group of workers and Palestinian rights activists demanded Google suspend the contract.

State of play: Koren, who is Jewish, called on Google in May 2021 to pledge its support for Palestinians in light of the Israeli attack on Gaza that killed more than 250 people, the Los Angeles Times reports. In October, Koren publicly criticized Project Nimbus, calling on Google to break its contract because she was concerned that Israel could use the technology to surveil and harm Palestinians.

  • Koren said her manager gave her an ultimatum a month later to relocate from San Francisco to Brazil or resign. Both Google and the National Labor Relations Board investigated Koren's complaint and did not find any wrongdoing, per the NYT.
  • Earlier this year, hundreds of employees signed an internal petition demanding Google stop its alleged retaliation against Koren.
  • This week, Koren wrote an open letter about the retribution she says she's faced, and alleged anti-Palestinian bias at Google.
  • Project Nimbus went into effect in July 2021 and lasts for seven years.

What they're saying: "We're here because Google leadership decided that harming the nations of the world with the tools for surveillance, control and violence is more important than their workers' values, their users safety and Palestinian lives," Gabriel Schubiner, a Google employee and member of the Alphabet Workers Union, said at the press conference.

  • He added, Google has "chosen apartheid over justice" and "money over morality."

The other side: Neither Google nor Amazon responded to Axios' request for comment, but Google previously told the NYT: "We are proud that Google Cloud has been selected by the Israeli government to provide public cloud services to help digitally transform the country."

  • Google also said the company prohibits workplace retaliation.

What's next: Tech workers with the group No Tech for Apartheid are planning a day of action on Sept. 8 against both Google and Amazon to demand the companies end their contracts with the Israeli military.

  • Workers plan to host direct actions in front of Amazon and Google offices in San Francisco, Seattle and New York City.
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