A Jewish Google employee who has tried to pressure the company to end a contract to build cloud-based data centers for the Israeli government says the tech giant has retaliated against her activism — by asking her to relocate to Brazil.
The relocation - "an act of retaliation"
Ariel Koren told The Los Angeles Times that after she criticized and lobbied other employees against Project Nimbus, a contract worth $1.2 billion that Google and Amazon Web Services jointly entered with Israel, Google responded by relocating her role from the company’s headquarters in Mountain View, California, to its office in Sao Paulo, Brazil.
In October, Koren had been one of two Jewish Google employees to spearhead an employee petition against Project Nimbus. The statement objected to the contract by saying the project, which will transfer the Israeli government’s data to cloud-based storage centers over a period of several years, “allows for further surveillance of and unlawful data collection on Palestinians, and facilitates expansion of Israel’s illegal settlements on Palestinian land.”
One month later, Koren said she was told her role would be relocating to Sao Paulo, and that she was given 17 business days to commit to move.
“It is clear that the relocation order was an act of retaliation,” Koren told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency in an email. “Our petition calling on Google and Amazon to end Project Nimbus has over 1,000 worker signatures but I was just one of two Google employees to speak out publicly.”
Koren has filed complaints with Google’s human resources department and the National Labor Relations Board. Google told The Los Angeles Times it has investigated the case and found no evidence of retaliation.
Koren, who co-founded a worker collective called Jewish Diaspora in Tech and has been active in progressive and anti-Zionist Jewish circles, has linked her activism against Project Nimbus to her Jewish background.
An "outpouring of support”
A petition signed by more than 500 Google employees in support of Koren accuses the company of “unjustly retaliating” against her. Rep. Anna Eshoo, a Democratic member of Congress, also wrote a letter to Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai supporting Koren, saying, “employees have a right to voice their objections about the work of their employer, without facing risk of retaliation.”
Koren told JTA she’s “overwhelmed by the outpouring of support.”
Koren had previously worked out of Google’s Mexico City office on projects related to its education arm in Latin America, and had taken time away from her job to found the activist group Respond Crisis Translation, which provides translation services for asylum seekers. She also has family in Brazil and speaks Portuguese, along with nine other languages including Hebrew and Ladino. But she said a move to Brazil had never been on the table prior to her criticism of Project Nimbus, and that the required move is unnecessary given the remote nature of her job.
Koren remains employed by Google and based in San Francisco, according to the Los Angeles Times report. Project Nimbus remains on track, as well, which Koren continues to object to.
“It’s clear that Google’s contract with the Israeli military and government will directly harm Palestinians using the technology that Google employees are expected to create,” she told JTA. “That is why workers are calling on Google to cancel the contract.”