Google Employee Forced Out for Criticising Israel Deal

Google employee Ariel Koren is alleging she was pushed to leave the company after voicing opposition to its deal with the Israeli government. Koren led efforts to draft a letter against Project Nimbus, a contract with Israel’s military.

She claims that immediately after organising the protest, Google gave her mere weeks to move to Brazil or lose her job. Her allegations are just the latest in a growing wave of complaints by former employees.

Allegations continue to mount that Google demoted, fired, or pushed employees out of their positions for voicing dissent against the company.

Project Nimbus

Project Nimbus was a $1.2 billion contract between Google, Amazon, and the Israeli government and military, signed last year. The project centres around cloud services.

Koren led efforts to draft a letter condemning the deal, which was signed by hundreds of Google and Amazon employees. The letter asserted that Project Nimbus “technology allows for further surveillance of and unlawful data collection on Palestinians, and facilitates expansion of Israel’s illegal settlements on Palestinian land.”

Signatories also criticised their companies for concluding the deal in the same week that the Israeli military attacked Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. The assault resulted in the deaths of close to 250 people, including 66 children.

Koren had called on Google to express solidarity with Palestinians earlier that year, and was one of two Google employees to speak publicly to the press about the letter. In early November, in what she thought was a weekly check-in video call with her manager, she was given an ultimatum. Move to Sao Paulo, or say goodbye to her position.

Google Employees Push Back

There’s been a visible upsurge in Google employees expressing disapproval with the company’s actions in recent years. And it seems to be complemented by a wave of complaints of unjust retaliation.

Google employee dissent took off after worldwide walkouts were staged in 2018, with workers protesting sexual harassment, gender inequality and systemic racism.

In 2019, the company faced uproar for firing four employees just before Thanksgiving. Google claimed they’d been let go due to data security violations, but the employees said they’d been fired in retaliation for “protected labour organising.”

In 2020, the US National Labor Relations Board filed a complaint against Google and parent company Alphabet. They contended the company illegally terminated and surveilled their employees. Also included were allegations the company blocked workers from sharing work grievances over email or using calendars to create large events, like protests.

Last year three software engineers sued Google over wrongful termination. They claimed they were fired for denouncing Google’s involvement with Trump’s border policies.

And respected AI expert Timnit Gebru announced Google had forced her out after refusing to publish a paper she co-authored, criticising AI language models. Much of Gebru’s work involved probing the potential racism of AI models, an emerging crucial issue.

A petition has been signed by over 500 Google and Amazon workers, condemning Google for its actions towards Ariel Koren. “Sadly, Ariel’s case is consistent with Google’s dangerous track record of worker retaliation that has made mainstream headlines in the past few years — and specifically against those speaking out against contracts that enable state violence against marginalized people.”

Cover image by Mitchell Luo on Unsplash.

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