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Google worker who protested $1bn contract with Israeli military quits after 'retaliation'

Ariel Koren says in letter that 'Google systematically silences Palestinian, Jewish, Arab and Muslim voices' concerned about violating Palestinian rights
A worker walks along a path at Google’s Bay View campus in Mountain View, California on 27 June 2022.
A worker walks along a path at Google’s Bay View campus in Mountain View, California, on 27 June 2022 (AFP)

A Google employee who has been one of the most vocal critics of the company's billion-dollar contract with the Israeli military said on Tuesday that she would resign, saying that the tech giant tried to retaliate against her for her activism.

Ariel Koren, a marketing manager for Google's educational products, published a memo on Medium to colleagues announcing her plan to quit.

"Due to retaliation, a hostile environment, and illegal actions by the company, I cannot continue to work at Google and have no choice but to leave the company at the end of this week," she said in her letter.

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"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 through a pattern of silencing and retaliation towards me and many others."

Koren spent more than a year organising against Project Nimbus, a $1.2bn agreement for Google and Amazon to supply Israel and its military with cloud and computing services.

In March, the Los Angeles Times reported that shortly after she helped draft a letter among Google and Amazon workers that said Project Nimbus would facilitate the surveillance of Palestinians, as well as assist the expansion of Israeli settlements, her boss suggested she move to Brazil or lose her position.

A Google spokeswoman told the New York Times in a statement that "we prohibit retaliation in the workplace and publicly share our very clear policy".

“We thoroughly investigated this employee’s claim, as we do when any concerns are raised,” she added.

The spokesperson added that the company is proud to have been "selected by the Israeli government to provide public cloud services to help digitally transform the country".

'Living off my family's oppression'

Fifteen other Google workers posted testimonies to YouTube on Tuesday and spoke to the New York Times, criticising the company's treatment of Palestinians and its censorship of employees who support them. All but two of the workers remained anonymous for fear of retaliation.

"Google systematically silences Palestinian, Jewish, Arab and Muslim voices concerned about Google’s complicity in violations of Palestinian human rights — to the point of formally retaliating against workers and creating an environment of fear," Koren wrote in her letter.

One of the workers said that "Project Nimbus makes me feel like I am making my living off my family’s oppression".

Some employees spoke about being punished after they were accused of antisemitism by coworkers for proclaiming, "Support Palestine".

Another employee said that a fellow colleague accused them of antisemitism for identifying as "Palestinian-American".

This article is available in French on Middle East Eye French edition.

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