Jewish employees push to cancel Google’s $ 1.2 billion. contract with Israel

Two Jewish Google employees are playing a key role in a worker petition calling on Google and Amazon to cancel a joint contract to build cloud-based data centers on behalf of the Israeli government.

The massive $ 1.2 billion contract, dubbed Project Nimbus, was signed in May and is one of the largest technology infrastructure companies in Israel. Google and Amazon will transfer the data from Israel to six cloud-based storage centers over the next few years.

The open letter says the agreement violates the “core values” of the signatories by allegedly encouraging surveillance of the Palestinians and encouraging the expansion of Jewish settlements.

“For me, as a Jewish Google employee, I feel a deep sense of intense moral responsibility,” said Ariel Koren, who lives in San Francisco and works in Google’s education division. “When you work for a company, you have the right to be responsible for how your work is actually used.”

FILE PHOTO: A Google sign is displayed at one of the company’s office complexes in Irvine, California, USA, July 27, 2020 (credit: MIKE BLAKE / REUTERS)

“As workers who keep these companies running, we are morally obliged to speak out against violations of these fundamental values,” the statement read. “This technology enables increased surveillance and illegal data collection on Palestinians, and facilitates the expansion of Israel’s illegal settlements on Palestinian land.”

According to Koren, more than 1,000 employees have signed the petition, although they remain anonymous and J. cannot verify the number of supporters. Koren and Schubiner are two of the three total signatories who have chosen to publicly identify themselves.

The pair of Jewish Googlers said that their identity as Jews is essential to speak on behalf of Palestinian colleagues who fear retaliation.

“As Jews, we are relatively more insulated against the charges of anti-Semitism that often surface in these discussions,” said Schubiner. “I recognize the privilege that comes with my identity and to speak out on this issue without fear of retaliation.”

The push to end the Project Nimbus contract faces an uphill battle. The contract reportedly contains a safeguard that prevents the tech giants from pulling out due to boycott pressure. In a brief statement to J., Amazon Web Services said the company is “focused on making the benefits of our world-leading cloud technology available to all of our customers, wherever they are.” Google did not respond to a request for comment.

Koren and Schubiner told J. that they have been working to convince Jewish tech employees who are currently not active in criticizing Israel to take a stand on the contract. “Trying to have these kinds of conversations, while listening and being respectful to co-workers, is difficult,” said Schubiner. “It is not an easy conversation. One that, frankly, Google has tried to avoid and has tried to shut down because they think it’s too difficult. “

Public support for the call has been largely limited to hardline anti-Zionist critics of Israel, including Jewish Voice for Peace and American Muslims for Palestine. These groups support a comprehensive boycott of the state. Both Koren and Schubiner declined to comment when asked if they wanted Google and Amazon to divest in Israel outside of Project Nimbus.

The two are also members of the Jewish Diaspora in Technology, a coalition of left-wing Jews who say they have felt ostracized of Jewish tech spaces due to their highly critical positions on Israel and Zionism. Schubiner said the murder of George Floyd and the Black Lives Matter protests in 2020 forced him to re-evaluate the divide between his personal life and his work at Google.

“I was a bit surprised to find that the equity conversations that we tried to have in that [Jewish Google] the space was very quickly derailed in conversations that used anti-Semitism as a means to avoid talking about other kinds of racial equity, ”said Schubiner. Now he says that around 200 people have joined Google’s internal group for the Jewish diaspora in technology.

“I don’t know if the demand to leave Nimbus is fully achievable,” added Schubiner. “It is up to the workers to decide that this is an issue that matters enough to us to put our own skin in the game.”

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