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Google fires 28 staffers after protesting Israel cloud contract

More than two dozen staff members have been fired after being arrested for protesting Google’s involvement in Project Nimbus, a $1.2 billion Israeli government cloud contract that also includes e-commerce giant Amazon.
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - JANUARY 09: The exterior of the new headquarters of Google is seen at 550 Washington Street in Hudson Square on January 09, 2024 in New York City. Designed by COOKFOX Architects, the 1.3-million-square-foot project involved the restoration and expansion of the St. John’s Terminal building along the Hudson River waterfront. (Photo by Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images)

Tech giant Google fired 28 of its employees on Wednesday after they staged a sit-in protest over Israel's Google Cloud contract. The news comes after the company suspended nine employees who were arrested in California and New York on Tuesday. 

What happened: On Tuesday, the group of staff members protested Google’s involvement in Project Nimbus, a $1.2 billion Israeli government cloud contract initiated in 2021 that also includes e-commerce giant Amazon. Under the agreement, Amazon and Google jointly provide cloud computing infrastructure and services for the Israeli government and military. Activists and Google employees have been critical of the project.

Some of the protesters occupied Google Cloud CEO Thomas Kurian’s office in Mountain View, California, until they were removed by police.

At the company's California and New York offices, nine Google employees were arrested on Tuesday night after an eight-hour sit-in. Workers in the New York office captured the arrests on video, in which a law enforcement officer can be seen telling them to exit the building. 

In a memo sent to all Google staff on Wednesday, the firm’s head of global security, Chris Racklow, said the action was “unacceptable, extremely disruptive and made coworkers feel threatened.” 

Racklow added, “Behavior like this has no place in our workplace and we will not tolerate it,” and warned that Google would be quick to take similar action against any other dissidents.

“The overwhelming majority of our employees do the right thing. If you’re one of the few who are tempted to think we’re going to overlook conduct that violates our policies, think again. The company takes this extremely seriously, and we will continue to apply our longstanding policies to take action against disruptive behavior — up to and including termination.”

No Tech for Apartheid, the group behind the protests, said in a statement on Medium, “In the three years that we have been organizing against Project Nimbus, we have yet to hear from a single executive about our concerns. Google workers have the right to peacefully protest about terms and conditions of our labor. These firings were clearly retaliatory.”

Last month, Google fired another employee for protesting the contract during a company presentation in Israel.

Why it matters: Big tech has long been criticized for its links to the Israeli military and its role in helping Israel in its Gaza war, which has killed more than 33,000 Palestinians, according to local authorities. The Middle Eastern country, an attractive market for big tech companies and investors, is home to around 130,000 start-ups, according to the Startup Blink website.

Amazon and Google have long been criticized over Project Nimbus and the companies’ ties to the Israel Defense Forces. In 2021, more than 90 Google workers and over 300 Amazon staff members signed a letter calling on their employers to cut ties with Israel.

Talking about Project Nimbus, anonymous Google and Amazon workers wrote in an op-ed in The Guardian that year, “This technology allows for further surveillance of and unlawful data collection on Palestinians, and facilitates expansion of Israel’s illegal settlements on Palestinian land.

“We cannot look the other way, as the products we build are used to deny Palestinians their basic rights, force Palestinians out of their homes and attack Palestinians in the Gaza Strip — actions that have prompted war crime investigations by the International Criminal Court.”