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War on Gaza: Google fires employee after pro-Palestine protest at Israeli tech conference

The employee disrupted an address by the head of Google Israel during an event in New York City
Google workers activists hold a protest at Google against the company's partnerships with Israel on 14 December 2023.
Activists and Google workers hold a protest outside Google's San Francisco office against the company's partnerships with Israel, on 14 December 2023 (X/No Tech for Apartheid)

Tech giant Google fired an employee who staged a protest against the chief of Google Israel during a company-sponsored Israeli tech event, accusing the company of being complicit in Israel's treatment of Palestinians in Gaza, which Palestinian Americans, legal experts and several countries say is genocide.

During the event in New York City earlier this week, the employee stood up during the keynote address by Barak Regev, head of Google Israel, saying in a video posted online that went viral: "I refuse to build technology that empowers genocide".

The employee specifically hit out at Project Nimbus, a $1.2bn agreement for Google and Amazon to supply Israel and its military with cloud and computing services.

"Project Nimbus puts Palestinian community members in danger," yelled the employee, who identified himself as a cloud software engineer.

A Google spokesperson told Middle East Eye that the employee was terminated for "interfering with an official company-sponsored event".

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"This behaviour is not okay, regardless of the issue, and the employee was terminated for violating our policies," the spokesperson said.

Middle East Eye asked Google what policies the employee had violated, but did not receive an answer by the time of publication.

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In response to the firing, the group No Tech for Apartheid released a statement rebuking the tech company, accusing it of clamping down on free speech surrounding the issue of Palestine.

"Google has engaged in a clear cut act of retaliation against its own worker for speaking up about the terms and conditions of their labor," the group said in a statement.

The group, however, noted that the ex-employee was content with the termination.

"While terminating this brave worker, Google HR asked how they were feeling. The worker replied: 'proud to be fired for refusing to be complicit in genocide'," the group's statement read.

The controversial Project Nimbus was met internally at Google with anger from many employees, who say that the partnership was helping to advance Israel's discrimination of Palestinians, which many rights groups have labelled as apartheid.

"For almost three years, thousands of Google & Amazon workers have organized against the companies’ contracts with the Israeli government and military, with no response from management or executives," No Tech for Apartheid said in its statement on Friday.

Google's partnership with the Israeli military has come under renewed scrutiny amid Israel's war in Gaza, where Israeli forces have killed more than 30,000 Palestinians, the majority of whom are women and children, according to the Palestinian health ministry.

In December, Google staff members and No Tech for Apartheid held a vigil in London for software engineer Mai Ubeid, who was a graduate of the Google-funded coding boot camp, Gaza Sky Geeks, and was in 2020 part of the Google for Startups accelerator programme.

Ubeid was killed on 31 October along with her entire family in an air strike during Israel's war on Gaza. 

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