Google fires dozens of staff after protests against Israeli government contract

Employees dismissed after sit-ins at Google offices protesting against cloud contract with Israel

Amelia Neath
Thursday 18 April 2024 16:34 BST
Google employees protest company’s work with Israel

Google has fired 28 employees after protests on Tuesday in the company’s offices against their cloud contract with the Israeli government.

The employees were terminated on Wednesday following a sit-in protest inside Google’s offices in New York and Sunnyvale, California.

Dozens of Google workers made their way inside Google Cloud CEO Thomas Kurian’s office at the Sunnyvale office, as well as on the 10th-floor commons in New York City, according to No Tech for Apartheid, the organisation that led the protests.

“They refuse to leave until @google stops powering the genocide in Gaza,” the group added, showing pictures of protestors holding banners inside the offices, some of which said “no more genocide for profit” and “Googlers against genocide”.

The protests are directed at a $1.2bn contract entered into by Google and Amazon to provide cloud services to the Israeli government, known as Project Nimbus.

Google announced that it had since dismissed 28 workers from employment at the company after the protests, claiming they physically hindered the work of others and displayed “unacceptable behaviour”.

“A small number of employee protesters entered and disrupted a few of our locations,” a Google spokesperson told The Independent on Thursday.

“Physically impeding other employees’ work and preventing them from accessing our facilities is a clear violation of our policies, and completely unacceptable behaviour.”

“After refusing multiple requests to leave the premises, law enforcement was engaged to remove them to ensure office safety,” the spokesperson added.

A counter-protester holding an Israeli flag walks into the parking lot near a protest at Google Cloud offices in Sunnyvale, California, US on April 16, 2024.
A counter-protester holding an Israeli flag walks into the parking lot near a protest at Google Cloud offices in Sunnyvale, California, US on April 16, 2024. (REUTERS/Nathan Frandino)

The Google spokesperson said the company would “continue to investigate and take action as needed”.

No Tech for Apartheid also captured the moment that several protestors were removed from their sit-in positions and arrested at the Google offices on both US coasts, including on its livestream of the Sunnyvale demonstration.

Nine people were reportedly arrested on trespassing charges, according to Bloomberg.

No Tech for Apartheid claimed in a statement after the terminations that Google had “indiscriminately fired” workers, including those who did not directly participate in the sit-ins.

“This flagrant act of retaliation is a clear indication that Google values its $1.2bn contract with the genocidal Israeli government and military more than its own workers,” the organisation added.

Some of the workers arrested amid the protest told CNBC on Wednesday that during the demonstration they were locked out of their work accounts and offices, placed on administrative leave and told to wait to return to work until being contacted by HR.

Cheyne Anderson, a Google Cloud software engineer, who had flown to Sunnyvale for the protest and was one of the workers who was arrested, told the outlet that she is “opposed to Google taking any military contracts – no matter which government they’re with or what exactly the contract is about”.

Another protestor, Hasan Ibraheem, told CNBC that it was weighing heavily on him that he was “receiving money from Google and Israel is paying Google”, adding that he felt he had a responsibility to act against the Nimbus project.

A Google spokesperson said that Nimbus is “not directed at highly sensitive, classified, or military workloads relevant to weapons or intelligence services”.

“We have been very clear that the Nimbus contract is for workloads running on our commercial cloud by Israeli government ministries who agree to comply with our terms of service and acceptable use policy,” they said.

“Google Cloud supports numerous governments around the world, in countries where we operate, including the Israeli government, with our generally available cloud computing services,” the spokesperson added.

The protest comes as Gaza’s Ministry of Health reported an updated death toll, saying that nearly 34,000 Palestinians have been killed amid Israel’s ongoing war against Hamas in Gaza.

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