December 15, 2023
From Popular Resistance

Above photo: Demonstrators gather outside Google offices in downtown San Francisco on Dec. 14, 2023. Beth LaBerge/KQED.

Around 500 people marched and chanted outside Google offices in San Francisco in an effort to get the Silicon Valley giant to stop ‘being complicit’ in the mass civilian casualties in Gaza.

Pro-Palestinian Google employees protested outside Google offices in San Francisco on Thursday to demand the tech giant cancel a $1.2 billion contract — called “Project Nimbus” — with the Israeli government and military.

An estimated 500 protesters chanted “Google, Google you can’t hide, we charge you with genocide,” reflecting growing outrage over the contract during Israel’s ongoing bombardment of Gaza. The Israeli Finance Ministry described the Project Nimbus contract as “intended to provide the government, the defense establishment and others with an all-encompassing cloud solution.”

Valerie Kuan, a software engineer at Google who was at the protest, said she doesn’t work on Project Nimbus “but this is an issue that affects all Google workers.”

“Google is looking to exploit all of their workers’ labor to profit off of war and profit off of Israeli genocide against the Palestinian people,” said Kuan, who has worked at Google for a little more than a year. “There are many ways to run a profitable company without supporting genocide.”

A recent investigation by +972 Magazine, an Israeli-Palestinian journalism publication, revealed that the Israeli military is using artificial intelligence to target and assassinate Palestinians in Gaza. The reporting does not identify the source of the technology, but Google workers with the No Tech For Apartheid campaign claim their company and its Project Nimbus partner, Amazon, are complicit in the Israeli siege.

Protester Khaled Allen, a Google software engineer of part-Palestinian descent, said he hasn’t been very politically active but that he feels “called to do so now.”

“I feel very connected to the issue because of my background,” said Allen, who has been at Google for two years. “I have a lot of faith in Google as a company. In general, it is a force for good in the world. Because I believe that, that’s why I’m here.”

As the protest grew Thursday night, a dozen protesters lay down on the sidewalk and covered themselves with white sheets bearing the Google logo. More than 18,600 people in Gaza have been killed in the war, most of them women and children, according to Gaza health officials.

In a 2021 anonymous open letter to Google and Amazon published in The Guardian, employees described watching their companies “aggressively pursue contracts with institutions like the US Department of Defense, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), and state and local police departments. These contracts are part of a disturbing pattern of militarization, lack of transparency and avoidance of oversight.”

“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,” the letter said.

Google did not respond to KQED’s request for comment for this story, but in an email to the San Francisco Chronicle, it wrote that Project Nimbus was not a military program, adding that the protest “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,” the statement added. “Our work is not directed at highly sensitive or classified military workloads relevant to weapons or intelligence services.”

Last year, a group of Palestinian Google employees and their allied colleagues spoke out anonymously in a public video about the anti-Palestinian bias they said they witnessed at the company. One Palestinian Google employee said she felt like she was making her living “off the oppression of my family back home.” Another Palestinian Google employee said, “Google’s Project Nimbus will be a big ugly moment in Google’s history and a shameful and embarrassing engagement.”

Another group of workers recently published an open letter addressed to Google leadership accusing the company of a double standard that allows for “freedom of expression for Israeli Googlers versus Arab, Muslim and Palestinian Googlers.” The unsigned letter was attributed to “Muslim, Palestinian and Arab Google employees joined by anti-Zionist Jewish colleagues.”

In another unsigned open letter, published in mid-October, a group of Google employees demanded the company cancel its Project Nimbus contract “and immediately cease doing business with the Israeli apartheid government and military.” The letter goes on to demand that Google leadership “issue a public condemnation of the ongoing genocide in the strongest possible terms.”