Jewish Google worker forced to resign after opposing company’s $1.2 billion contract with Israel


August 30, 2022 at 8am ET

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San Francisco, CA — Ariel Koren, a product marketing manager at Google for Education who has been at the company for over seven years, resigned today after facing retaliation from management and harassment from fellow Googlers because of her criticism of Project Nimbus, Google’s $1.2 billion cloud computing contract with the Israeli government and military.

Ariel, a member of the Alphabet Workers Union - Communications Workers of America, is the latest in a long list of Google workers who have either resigned or been fired in retaliation for nothing more than raising ethical concerns at work—a right all Alphabet workers should enjoy without fear.

Ariel sent an open letter to coworkers throughout Google today detailing the retaliation she faced from her direct managers, who told her she had a choice: either move to Brazil from California or resign. Some 750 Google workers (and more than 25,000 others outside the company) signed a petition earlier this year protesting the retaliation and calling on Google to rescind its relocation order.

She is resigning today after Google refused to rescind its ultimatum and gave her no choice but to move overseas or leave the company.

Alongside the open letter, more than a dozen Google workers are speaking out about the anti-Palestinian bias they have seen inside Google in a video being released via Jewish Diaspora in Tech, a group of Jews and allies in tech started by Ariel to provide a space for anti-Zionist Jews in the tech industry. The testimony, which includes several Palestinian Googlers speaking anonymously, is the first time a group of Google workers have given first-hand accounts of the racism and bias they face within Google because of their stance on Israel-Palestine.

“Google has consistently sustained a culture of silencing anti-Zionist Jews, and creating toxic and unjust conditions for Palestinian, Arab, and Muslim workers at Google,” said Ariel, a product marketing manager at Google for Education since 2015 and member of the Alphabet Workers Union, “Google is ignoring the widespread internal and public dissent against the company’s complicity in Israel’s apartheid violence via Project Nimbus, and has forced Palestinians at the company to feel unsafe bringing their identity to work and speaking out.”

Ariel, who is Jewish, also detailed the hostility that anti-Zionist Jewish Google workers have faced internally from Jewglers, a corporate affinity group of Jewish Googlers that is meant to represent all Jewish workers at the company and has been treated as the de facto representative for Jewish workers by management, despite widespread worker concern. Ariel recounts how she and other anti-Zionist, pro-Palestinian Jews—in addition Palestinian, Muslim, and Arab Google employees—have been censored and silenced by Jewglers, which institutionalized the labeling of all staments opposing Israel’s actions as “antisemitic” and even banned workers from the group.

“Using its platform and access to Google’s [diversity, equity, and inclusion] and [human resources] leads, the group has systematically weaponized the control granted to it by the [employee resource group] structure to silence the voices of Googlers who support Palestinian freedom,” Ariel writes. “It’s simple: just as in any community, Jews have differing backgrounds, political perspectives, and—yes—views on the Israeli government’s actions.”

Project Nimbus is a military contract rife with secrecy that deserves worker scrutiny—as do all controversial contracts at Google. Reporting on Google’s internal documents has shown that Project Nimbus would grant the Israeli government and military access to “facial detection, automated image categorization, object tracking, and even sentiment analysis that claims to assess the emotional content of pictures, speech, and writing.”

Google’s own principles on artificial intelligence state that Google will not “design or deploy” artificial intelligence technologies that are likely to cause harm, violate international norms against surveillance, or violate international law or human rights.

Citing the well-documented human rights abuses and violations of international law committed by the Israeli government and military against Palestinians, hundreds of workers at both Google and Amazon have called on their companies to stop working on Project Nimbus, describing the contract as “part of a disturbing pattern of militarization, lack of transparency and avoidance of oversight.” Tens of thousands of others have joined those calls.

The Project Nimbus contract also reportedly prevents Google from cutting off its services to Israel or denying its services to any particular entities of the Israeli government, like the Israeli Defense Forces, in the future. In other words, Google would be unable to cut the contract if any new information was unearthed about how the Israeli government or military was using the contract on the ground, meaning workers and the company would have little meaningful oversight over this work.

“It is the right of all Alphabet workers to voice our concerns and objections to projects like Nimbus and organize against them internally, completely free from fear of retaliation,” said Parul Koul, the executive chair of the Alphabet Workers Union. “Thousands of Google workers have previously organized against military contracts, like Project Maven, and we deserve to do the same now and in the future. Ariel should never have faced this retaliation and harassment. She should never have been forced into a position where resigning was her only option.”

The Alphabet Workers Union - Communications Workers of America, which has been supporting Ariel in her advocacy within the company, calls on Google’s executives to stop its work on Project Nimbus and stop suppressing freedom of speech and worker organizing by retaliating against workers who raise ethical concerns.

Next week on September 8th, Google workers supported by the civil society campaign #NoTechForApartheid will lead direct actions in front of the offices in the Bay Area, New York City, and Seattle.

We are Alphabet Workers who stand united.

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