Jewish Google employee quits citing retaliation over BDS efforts

Ariel Koren, who led a campaign against an Amazon-Google Israeli infrastructure project, announced she was quitting, citing the company's retaliation against her activism.

A sign is pictured outside a Google office near the company's headquarters in Mountain View, California, US, May 8, 2019. (photo credit: REUTERS/PARESH DAVE/FILE PHOTO)
A sign is pictured outside a Google office near the company's headquarters in Mountain View, California, US, May 8, 2019.
(photo credit: REUTERS/PARESH DAVE/FILE PHOTO)

Ariel Koren, a Jewish Google employee, who led a campaign against an Amazon-Google Israeli infrastructure project, announced she was quitting in a letter to colleagues made public on Tuesday, citing the company's retaliation against her activism and a work environment hostile to her political beliefs.

"Due to retaliation, a hostile environment, and illegal actions by the company, I cannot continue to work at Google and have no choice but to leave the company at the end of this week," Koren wrote.

"Instead of listening to employees who want Google to live up to its ethical principles, Google is aggressively pursuing military contracts and stripping away the voices of its employees through a pattern of silencing and retaliation towards me and many others."

"Instead of listening to employees who want Google to live up to its ethical principles, Google is aggressively pursuing military contracts and stripping away the voices of its employees through a pattern of silencing and retaliation towards me and many others."

Ariel Koren

Police officers stand in line to separate protesters supporting the Palestinians from a small group of Israel supporters in front of city hall in Toronto, Ontario, Canada May 15, 2021. (credit: REUTERS/CHRIS HELGREN)Police officers stand in line to separate protesters supporting the Palestinians from a small group of Israel supporters in front of city hall in Toronto, Ontario, Canada May 15, 2021. (credit: REUTERS/CHRIS HELGREN)

Koren is one of the leaders of the activist group Jewish Diaspora in Tech, which has been a major component of the Jewish Voice for Peace and MPower Change campaign #NoTechForApartheid against the $1.2 billion dollar Nimbus cloud computing project. On Tuesday she repeated allegations made in March that Google had relocated her position from the company’s headquarters in Mountain View, California, to its office in Sao Paulo, Brazil as a punishment for opposition to the deal.

According to a letter published by the labor board that aligned with the details of Koren's case, the evidence presented "failed to establish the necessary causal link" and "the investigation did not reveal evidence of animus towards the employee." Further, the dismissal letter found that the decision to relocate the position predated the employee's actions.

Koren blasted Google for continuing with the project, which would provide infrastructure to several government bodies, including the Israeli military. Coinciding with Koren's resignation, a series of protests were announced for September 8 in front of Google and Amazon offices in San Francisco, New York City and Seattle.

What is the #NoTechForApartheid campaign? 

Previous #NoTechForApartied activist endeavors had failed to push Google to adopt Koren's preferred policies. On June 1, an Alphabet stockholders meeting proposal put forward by Jewish Diaspora for Tech activist Gabriel Schubiner to reassess involvement in Nimbus failed — 544,653,039 votes against and 55,301,799 for the proposal after the board of directors recommended to vote against it. Since a petition had started in October, 800 Google and Amazon employees and 37,500 others were said to have signed the petition to end Nimbus — but as Koren noted the tech giants have entirely ignored the campaign.

Koren asserted that the internal Jewish Google group "Jewglers" had created a toxic work environment by silencing anti-Israel content within the community's internal platforms.

Further, she accused Jewglers and Google of "weaponizing" diversity to silence Palestinians, Muslims as well as supporters of Palestinians. Koren cited an apology from Google to Jewglers over its concern over a donation to Movement for Black Lives, which had posted anti-Israel content.

According to The Forward, Jewglers was also concerned about the lack of commitment to fighting antisemitism, and when Google agreed to donate to counter-antisemitism NGOs, Koren and her small faction of about 28 anti-Zionist Jews opposed the charity. 

Jewglers were alleged by Koren to having had complained to human resources about Palestinian and Arab Googlers critical of Israel. 

"Working at Google was always my dream job, until I learned about Project Nimbus," said an anonymous Palestinian Google employee in one of about a dozen testimonies collected by Jewish Diaspora for Tech. "I always thought that when I worked at Google, I’d be quick to answer when people asked me where I work. But now that I work here, I try my best to avoid mentioning Google."

"I shared an internal fundraiser in a Google-wide Forum. I was told that the phrase "Support Palestine" was offensive," claimed another employee.

"I shared an internal fundraiser in a Google-wide Forum. I was told that the phrase "Support Palestine" was offensive."

Anonymous Palestinian Google employee

Koren said that they had written to executives about Jewgler's ostensible bias, but had been ignored.

"Anti-Zionist Jews at Google will not stop speaking out against Israel’s injustices against Palestinians," said Koren.

"Anti-Zionist Jews at Google will not stop speaking out against Israel’s injustices against Palestinians."

Ariel Koren

The Hamas terrorist organization and official Boycott Sanctions and Divestment organization came out in support of Koren and her resignation on Wednesday.

What is the Nimbus Project? 

The Nimbus Project is intended to provide cloud services for the Israeli government, the national defense system, and other bodies in the Israeli economy without sending data for storage overseas, which is a cybersecurity risk. The tender sparked fierce competition from other cloud data companies.