A protest against Google and Amazon's contracts with the Israeli government in San Francisco, Sept. 8, 2022. (Photo/Twitter @AlphabetWorkers)
A protest against Google and Amazon's contracts with the Israeli government in San Francisco, Sept. 8, 2022. (Photo/Twitter @AlphabetWorkers)

Protest: S.F. tech workers and activists demand Google and Amazon end deal with Israel

Dozens of employees marched to Google’s San Francisco offices, then five blocks to Amazon’s offices, to protest contracts the two tech companies have signed with the Israeli government.

Demonstrators carried Palestinian flags, and several carried signs that, when placed side by side, depicted a concrete wall, with the message “No Tech for Israel Apartheid.”

Protesters also demonstrated on Sept. 8 at Google and Amazon offices in Seattle, New York City and Durham, North Carolina, applauding speakers who demanded the companies end Project Nimbus, a massive deal to build centers in Israel to store government data in the cloud.

“Google, Google, you can’t hide, we can see your apartheid side,” San Francisco protesters chanted.

The $1.2 billion deal, one of Israel’s largest technology infrastructure contracts, was entered into jointly by Google and Amazon Web Services in May 2021. The two tech giants, by signing the contract, agreed to transfer Israel’s data into six cloud-based storage centers in the coming years. “Nimbus” is the name of a type of cloud.

Google spokesperson Atle Erlingsson told Forbes the protesters were “misrepresenting the contract,” and affirmed that the infrastructure is geared toward civic services, not the military.

Ariel Koren speaking at the protest. (Screenshot/Twitter @AlphabetWorkers
Ariel Koren speaking at the protest. (Screenshot/Twitter @AlphabetWorkers

Google workers are speaking out today and saying, drop Nimbus, Google and Amazon, drop Nimbus.

“As we have stated many times, the contract is for workloads running on our commercial platform by Israeli government ministries such as finance, healthcare, transportation, and education,” he said in a statement sent to Forbes. “Our work is not directed at highly sensitive or classified military workloads relevant to weapons or intelligence services.”

The contract with Israel has drawn backlash from some Google employees. More than 700 of them signed a petition last October claiming the technology would be used to collect data and surveillance of Palestinians and expand Israeli settlements in Palestinian territories.

Ariel Koren, a Jewish Google marketing manager who until recently worked in San Francisco, co-led the petition and aggressively worked for more than a year on efforts to protest Project Nimbus. She announced in a Medium post last week that she had resigned from the company, claiming she had been subject to retaliatory practices, including the company relocating her job to Sao Paulo, Brazil.

“Instead of listening to employees who want Google to live up to its ethical principles, Google is aggressively pursuing military contracts and stripping away the voices of its employees,” Koren wrote.

Google and the National Labor Relations Board investigated Koren’s complaint that the relocation was unjustified and found no wrongdoing, according to the New York Times, which profiled Koren the day she went public with the news of her resignation.

By the time she departed Google on Sept. 2, plans were already in motion for #NoTechForApartheid rallies in various locations on Sept. 8.

“At least 200” protesters marched in San Francisco, and another 150 participated in New York City, according to organizers and participants who tweeted at the rallies.

“You have a voice. You have the responsibility to use it. Do something when those less privileged than you are the ones whose jobs and livelihoods are on the line,” Koren said into a microphone at the San Francisco protest. “That’s why Google workers are speaking out today and saying, ‘Drop Nimbus, Google and Amazon, drop Nimbus.'”

In San Francisco, Lisa Rofel, a professor emerita in the UC Santa Cruz Anthropology Department and an activist with anti-Zionist Jewish Voice for Peace, also spoke to the crowd. “Anti-Zionist Jews exist,” she said.

The Arab Resource and Organizing Center (AROC) helped organize the protests in San Francisco. AROC is known for its activism in the BDS movement against Israeli companies.

Sharif Zakout, an organizer with AROC Bay Area, told the crowd, “We are no stranger to the harms of big tech like Google and Amazon. They have demonstrated their inability to stay principled.”

When the speeches and chants came to an end, the Alphabet Workers Union, which represents Google employees, tweeted that the protests would continue.

“We’ll keep fighting Nimbus,” the union wrote. “Well keep bringing people out till Google cuts this contract.”

Emma Goss
Emma Goss

Emma Goss is a J. staff writer. She is a Bay Area native and an alum of Gideon Hausner Jewish Day School and Kehillah Jewish High School. Emma also reports for KTVU Fox 2 News. Follow her on Twitter @EmmaAudreyGoss.