American Big Tech firms are being pressured to re-asses their strong connections with Israel by pro-Palestinian activists – and by their own employees – amid the recent round of hostilities between the Israeli military and the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip, according to Politico.
On 21 May, a ceasefire between Hamas and Israel ended 11 days of conflict, which was triggered by Tel Aviv restricting Palestinians visiting the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem's Old City during Ramadan, and by the decision of Israel's Supreme Court to evict six Palestinian families from their homes in East Jerusalem’s Arab district of Sheikh Jarrah. However, the recent wave of tension fuelled calls from the pro-Palestinian Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BSD) movement, which has long been pressuring world governments and businesses to cut ties with Israel.
As such, the group’s general coordinator Mahmoud Nawajaa said that Big Tech, which Israel majorly relies on, has “an obligation to not assist apartheid and to not be complicit in human rights violations.”
At Google, a group of Jewish staffers has been circulating a letter addressed to CEO Sundar Pichai and the firm’s executives calling for a review of its “business contracts and corporate donations” – they also want the company to support Palestinian rights. The letter urges Google to terminate “contracts with institutions that support Israeli violations of Palestinian rights, such as the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF),” despite concerns from the larger Jewish community, which argues the letter comes across as anti-Semitic, Politico reports.
The pressure follows the signing of a $1.2 billion contract for Project Nimbus that was awarded to both Google and Amazon last month in a bid to help Israel provide cloud services to the IDF and government agencies.
Google, which also announced in April that it will set up a new Google Cloud region in Israel, said it was “proud” that Benjamin Netanyahu’s government called on its services for the project.
Meanwhile, the public letter denouncing the giant tech firm's cooperation with the IDF has collected around 600 signatures from its employees as of last week, an anonymous worker told Politico.
“What’s happening right now is a broader reckoning within the technology industry about its involvement in Israel,” the staffer, who has been organising pro-Palestinian campaign efforts at Google, claimed. “Technology companies are heavily embedded in Israel and benefit greatly from being in Israel, and it’s time for tech companies to acknowledge and come to terms with, and hopefully redress, the human rights violations that they are benefiting from.”
Former Google research assistant, Jack Poulson, who previously resigned over the company’s collaboration with China, said that there was a “significant likelihood” that the his former employer, as well as other tech titans, could cancel their contracts with Tel Aviv if public pressure continues.
At the same time, Facebook – which has long been criticised by conservatives for its “censorship” practices and by Democrats for allegedly allowing misinformation on the platform – is now being targeted by pro-Palestinian groups over allegations that it has been disproportionally removing posts from Palestinians during the recent escalations.
Facebook responded by saying that it applies the policies regardless of who is sharing messages and posts.
"We share an interest in making sure Facebook remains a place for Palestinians and others around the world to discuss the issues that matter to them, and we look forward to continuing this conversation," spokesperson Andy Stone said, as pressure on the embattled social media service continues.