Google employees arrested and placed on leave after sit-in protests against Israel contract

At least nine Google employees took part in sit-in protests against Project Nimbus, a $1.2 billion contract with Amazon that supports the Israel government’s tech infrastructure

April 18, 2024 09:31 am | Updated 09:31 am IST

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

A counter-protester holding an Israeli flag walks into the parking lot near a protest at Google Cloud offices in Sunnyvale, California, U.S. on April 16, 2024. REUTERS/Nathan Frandino | Photo Credit: REUTERS

Several Google employees in the U.S. were placed on leave and/or arrested after they carried out a sit-in protest at company offices in New York and California to demonstrate against Project Nimbus - a $1.2 billion deal with Amazon that supports the Israeli government’s technology infrastructure.

The organisation No Tech for Apartheid issued a statement on Thursday, claiming that over two dozen Google workers had been “indiscriminately” fired in an act of retaliation by the company.

During the sit-ins on Tuesday, protesting workers livestreamed footage of themselves being arrested in both cities, with the No Tech for Apartheid organisation calling them the ‘Nimbus Nine.’ The sit-ins lasted close to 10 hours, with workers holding up signs calling for Project Nimbus to be dropped.

“Google cited “bullying” and “harassment” as the reasons for workers’ firing. If there has been any bullying or harassment at the company, our Palestinian, Arab, and Muslim colleagues have been the recipients,” said No Tech for Apartheid in its statement, adding that Google’s allegations of property damage were false.

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Tech workers worldwide are split in their reaction to the ongoing bombardment of Palestinians in the Gaza strip, with some openly supporting Israel’s military and volunteering their services to help locate people taken hostage by Hamas, while others are organising targeted boycotts against firms like HP and Siemens, or disrupting the companies supporting Israel’s military.

OpenAI chief Sam Altman said in January that Muslim, Arab, and Palestinian colleagues in tech were fearful of sharing their experiences, as they worried about retaliation or hurting their career. Acknowledging he was Jewish, Altman said that he received support in the face of growing antisemitism but that his Muslim peers did not receive similar backing.

Another OpenAI official deleted his posts on X and apologised in December after it was found he was calling for the Israeli military to increase its bombardment of Gaza.

No Tech for Apartheid promised that it would keep organising until Project Nimbus was dropped.

“Google has built custom tools for Israel’s Ministry of “Defense,” and has doubled down on contracting with the Israeli Occupation Forces, since the start of its genocide against Palestinians in Gaza. By continuing its lies, Google is blatantly disrespecting and disregarding consumers, the media, as well as, most importantly, its workers,” said No Tech for Apartheid, calling chief Sundar Pichai and Google Cloud CEO Thomas Kurian “genocide profiteers”.

Oxfam International said in January this year that Israel’s military was killing Palestinians at an average rate of 250 people a day.

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