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Amazon employees urge Jeff Bezos to cut ties with Israeli military

Letter signed by 600 employees urges Amazon to acknowledge the pain and suffering of Palestinians, MEE can reveal
Employees at Amazon urged the e-commerce giant to sever all ties with Israeli military (AFP)
By Azad Essa in New York City

Employees at Amazon have urged the e-commerce giant to sever all ties with the Israeli military, just a day after Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Google signed a $1.2bn deal with Israel, Middle East Eye can reveal.

The letter, signed by 600 employees, and delivered to Jeff Bezos, Andy Jassy and the executive team on Tuesday, urges Amazon "to commit to review and sever business contracts and corporate donations with companies, organizations, and/or governments that are active or complicit in human rights violations, such as the Israeli Defense Forces."

The letter, sent to MEE by an employee and signatory to the letter, says that given that Amazon employs Palestinians in Tel Aviv, Haifa offices and around the world, "ignoring the suffering faced by Palestinians and their families at home erases our Palestinian coworkers."

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Speaking to MEE on condition of anonymity, the employee said fellow signatories were particularly concerned that their employer was entering into billion-dollar contract with Israel, in which they would be providing cloud services for the government as well as for the Israeli armed forces for the next seven years at the very least.

"Amazon is not the most open of spaces for employees to discuss these issues, but they are happening in groups and we are really looking for acknowledgement of the issue that does not take a both-sides approach as some have been doing," the employee who helped formulate the letter, said.

"We are not expecting even a response from management. But hopefully with internal and external pressure, maybe it is something they will eventually feel the need to revisit.

"We are hoping though that with pressure from employees from the different companies, it can lead to something bigger."

'Basic human rights'

Amazon becomes the third tech giant in the US to face pushback from its employees following last week's letters to Google's CEO Sundar Pichai and Apple's CEO Tim Cooke to similarly put out statements in support of Palestinian rights.

Both companies have yet to respond publicly to the letters sent by employees.

Like the letters to Google's and Apple's leadership, the letter to Amazon's executive team also made references to human rights reports produced by the UN and others, in calling on their employers to take a principled stand.

"We ask Amazon leadership to acknowledge the continued assault upon Palestinians’ basic human rights under and illegal occupation, as evidenced and witnessed by the United Nations and human rights organizations, without using language that implies a power symmetry or situational equivalency, which minimizes and misrepresents the disruption, destruction, and death that has disproportionately been inflicted upon the Palestinians in recent days and over several decades," the letter read.

"The recent violent and deadly display of Palestinian displacement, disenfranchisement, and dehumanization cannot, once again, be actively or passively endorsed."

Palestinian activists, like Nadim Nashif, executive director of 7amleh: The Arab Center for Social Media Advancement, have already condemned the Amazon-Google deal with Israel as yet another example of "how technology companies are enabling the violations of human rights and developing policies to whitewash these unlawful activities. 

"AWS [Amazon Web Services] should not provide cloud services to companies who are working with governments and militaries to develop surveillance technologies and to spy on Palestinians and other human rights activists and organizations," Nashif told MEE.

Amazon did not immediately respond to Middle East Eye's request for comment.

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