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Google Employee Faces Retaliation for defending Palestinians’ rights

"Google gave me 17 days to commit to moving to Sao Paulo—or else lose my job".

Jerusalem24 – Over 500 Google workers have signed a petition supporting a Jewish colleague who was reportedly laid off for protesting a partnership agreement with the Israeli military and government, Los Angeles Times said in a recent report.

Ariel Koren, a product marketing manager at Google for Education, has criticized her company for signing a $1.2 billion contract with Israel called Project Nimbus, a huge undertaking by Google and Amazon Web Services to provide the Israeli military and government with cloud services.

Koren said on Twitter that Google gave her 17 days to commit to moving to Brazil, or lose her job.

“Sadly, Ariel’s case is consistent with Google’s dangerous track record of worker retaliation that has made mainstream headlines in the past few years — and specifically against those speaking out against contracts that enable state violence against marginalized people,” the petition said.

“Google leadership is unjustly retaliating against our coworker and DropNimbus member, Ariel Koren, for speaking up about how Google’s Project Nimbus contract with the Israeli military will enable violations of Palestinians’ human rights,” it added.

Ariel is also the founder of Respond Crisis Translation committed to the language community’s responsibility to fight back whenever language is weaponized to impede freedom of mobility. Ariel has worked as a trauma-informed interpreter in disparate emergency contexts, including for families experiencing detention, survivors of gender-based violence, and climate refugees.

She is one of the organizers who co-created Jewish Diaspora in Tech, an anti-nationalist Jewish organizing community of tech workers acting in solidarity with communities leading the fight against the carceral state, techno-militarism, and white nationalism. She speaks Spanish, English, Portuguese, French, Mandarin, Arabic, Hebrew, Italian, Ladino, and ASL.

In May, koren called on Google to express solidarity with Palestinians in the wake of an assault on Gaza by Israel that killed more than 250 people. In October, she led efforts to draft a letter among Google and Amazon workers that criticized Project Nimbus, a multiyear plan to open data centers in Israel and provide infrastructure for a full suite of cloud services to the government and military. The letter said the program would facilitate surveillance of Palestinians and the expansion of Israeli settlements, considered illegal under international law. the letter, which has amassed hundreds of employee signatures, urged Google to cut ties with the Israeli military. Koren was one of two Google employees who spoke to media outlets publicly about the push. Koren believes she has faced added scrutiny since last spring.

Koren has worked at Google for about six years and spearheaded marketing efforts for Google for Education, the company’s arm creating tech tools for classrooms and educators, in Latin America. She was based in Mexico City for two years before being approved to work in San Francisco, where her partner lives, at the start of the pandemic, she said.

In early November, Koren said, she logged into a videoconference call for what she expected to be a routine weekly check-in with her manager. Instead, she said, her boss presented her with an ultimatum: move to Brazil or lose her position.

In the meeting, Koren said, the manager told her the team’s Brazil business had been growing, her role was being relocated to Sao Paulo, and she had 17 business days to commit to the move.

“It was just so outlandish. The whole thing was completely wild,” she said in an interview with LA Times.

Koren said that although there had been tentative plans for her to move back to Mexico City after the pandemic, her team’s leadership had never previously raised the idea of moving to Brazil.

Google said it investigated the incident and found no evidence of retaliation against Koren.

 

Nadeen Alshaer

Alshaer is a Palestinian journalist, a Birzeit University graduate with a B.A. in TV and Radio Broadcasting Journalism. Alshaer has 5 years of experience in the field of reporting and presenting. Currently works as a reporter and presenter/producer for PBC and Jerusalem24. She’s a UN and Kelley School of Business alumna

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