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Anonymous Google, Amazon workers decry deal with Israel




Several hundred anonymous workers at Google and Amazon said in an open letter published Tuesday that they do not support their employers’ decision to build and provide regional cloud-based data centers and services to Israel, indicating that they want to cut all ties with the Israeli defense forces.

According to the letter published by The Guardian, more than 90 Google workers and more than 300 “conscientious employees of diverse backgrounds” at Amazon have signed up to the initiative.

The workers said they remained anonymous because they “fear retribution,” making it impossible to independently verify the number of signatories.

The letter refers to the Nimbus cloud project, which will enable Israeli government ministries and other public bodies to move servers and services to the cloud provided by the two technology companies. Until data centers are built locally – in about two years – cloud services will be provided by Google and Amazon AWS data centers in Ireland, the Netherlands and Frankfurt. All this data will then be transferred to the one that was created in Israel.

“As workers who keep these companies running, we are morally obligated to speak out against violations of these core values. For this reason, we are compelled to call on the leaders of Amazon and Google to withdraw from the Nimbus project and cut all ties with the Israeli military,” the letter read, without mentioning the other entities. that will be served.

Workers said the two tech companies are pursuing contracts with US organizations such as the Department of Defense, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the police.

“These contracts are part of a worrying pattern of militarism, lack of transparency and the avoidance of oversight,” the letter said.

The workers said the deal with the Israeli government was a continuation of the same vein – a contract to “sell dangerous technology to the Israeli army and government.”

The letter notes that the contract was signed with Israel in May, “in the same week that the Israeli army attacked Palestinians in the Gaza Strip – killing nearly 250 people, including more than 60 children.” The letter does not indicate that the Israeli strikes were in response to the Palestinian factions in Gaza firing thousands of shells at civilians in Israel, causing a number of casualties.

Rockets fired from the Gaza Strip towards Israel, May 10, 2021 (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)

“The technology that our companies contract to build will make the discrimination and systematic displacement carried out by the Israeli government and army even more cruel and deadly to Palestinians,” the letter said. The Nimbus Project is a $1.2 billion contract to provide cloud services to the Israeli military and government. This technology allows for more monitoring and illegal data collection on Palestinians, and it facilitates the expansion of illegal Israeli settlements on Palestinian land.”

The letter’s authors concluded that they “cannot look the other way” while their products are used “to deny Palestinians their basic rights, force Palestinians to leave their homes and attack Palestinians in the Gaza Strip – actions that have led to war crimes investigations by the International Criminal Court” . The International Criminal Court’s investigation into alleged Israeli war crimes is actually investigating Hamas about the same thing.

Officials said the government contract with Google and Amazon for services has an initial seven-year period, with the option to extend it for a total of 23 years. After the first seven years, Israel will be able to add additional suppliers or stop working with existing suppliers.

The project, which envisions setting up six data centers in Israel with an investment of at least NIS 4 billion ($1.23 billion), will create about 500 direct jobs for each center, but will also indirectly boost employment via services that these centers will use from other suppliers.

The centers will also help create an ecosystem of startups offering cloud-based services, officials said, and train a workforce with the right skills that will then move into the nation’s tech ecosystem. The Finance Ministry said that neighboring countries will also be able to take advantage of the cloud infrastructure that has been set up in Israel.

Earlier this year, amid fighting between Israel and armed groups in Gaza, Google employees asked management to review the company’s contracts with and corporate donations to “institutions that support Israeli violations of Palestinian rights,” citing the Israel Defense Forces as an example.

The letter, sent by Jewish employees of Google, to CEO Sundar Pichai, called on the tech giant to increase its support for the Palestinians in response to the fighting.

Google CEO Sundar Pichai speaks during a visit to El Centro College in Dallas, Texas, October 3, 2019 (AP Photo/LM Otero, File)

When asked in May if the tech giants could ever decide to shut down services, leaving Israel in limbo, attorney Zviel Ganz of the Finance Ministry’s legal department said, “According to the bid requirements, the answer is no.” In a briefing to reporters, he said that contracts prevent companies from refusing to provide services to certain government entities.

Ganz added that such scenarios were taken into account when drafting the bids. “We made several models for these scenarios and addressed them in the tender,” he said.

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