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8 Nov 2023

Will Shanklin, Engadget

Google workers allege the company has a double standard on Israel-Palestine

"Google workers publish letter criticizing company’s Israel-Palestine ‘double standard’", 9 November 2023

A group of Google employees has published an open letter on Medium calling out an alleged double standard in the company related to freedom of expression surrounding the Israel-Palestine war. The essay condemns “hate, abuse and retaliation” within the company against Muslim, Arab and Palestinian workers. The employees who penned the letter, ..., demand that CEO Sundar Pichai, Google Cloud CEO Thomas Kurian and other senior leaders publicly condemn “the ongoing genocide in the strongest possible terms.”

“We are Muslim, Palestinian, and Arab Google employees joined by anti-Zionist Jewish colleagues,” the letter opens. “We cannot remain silent in the face of the hate, abuse, and retaliation that we are being subjected to in the workplace in this moment.”

The employees say Google managers have publicly asked Arab and Muslim people in the company if they support Hamas as a response to their concern for Palestinian families. “There are even coordinated efforts to stalk the public lives of workers sympathetic to Palestine and to report them both to Google and law enforcement for ‘supporting terrorism,’” the letter reads.

“You have to be very, very, very careful, because any sort of criticism toward the Israeli state can be easily taken as antisemitism,” Sarmad Gilani, a Google software engineer who tells Engadget he did not take part in the letter, said in an interview with The New York Times. “It feels like I have to condemn Hamas 10 times before saying one tiny, tiny thing criticizing Israel.”

In an emailed statement to Engadget, Google spokesperson Courtenay Mencini wrote, “As we’ve shared, this is a highly sensitive time and topic in every company and workplace, and we have many employees who are personally affected. ...” The company said the situation involves a small number of Googlers whose views don’t represent the entire workforce.

The tensions inflamed in the last month by the Israel-Palestine war have resurfaced resentments about Google’s involvement in Project Nimbus. ...Today’s letter echoes that sentiment. “We demand that Google stop providing material support to this genocide by canceling its Project Nimbus contract and immediately cease doing business with the Israeli apartheid government and military,” it reads.

In response to the Project Nimbus concerns, Google spokesperson Mencini wrote to Engadget, “This is part of a longstanding campaign by a group of organizations and people who largely don’t work at Google. We have been very clear that the Nimbus contract is for workloads running on our commercial platform by Israeli government ministries such as finance, healthcare, transportation, and education. Our work is not directed at highly sensitive or classified military workloads relevant to weapons or intelligence services.”