Google fires engineer for standing up for Palestine

Google continues troubling pattern of retaliation against employees for organizing in the workplace and against genocide

March 12, 2024 by Natalia Marques
No Tech for Apartheid marches on Google headquarters in San Francisco (Photo: No Tech for Apartheid)

Google has fired an engineer who disrupted an Israeli Artificial Intelligence and Surveillance conference in New York City on March 4. “I’m a Google Cloud software engineer, and I refuse to build technology that powers genocide!” the worker proclaimed, midway through a presentation by Google Israel managing director Barak Regev.

The engineer was referring to Google’s Project Nimbus contract, which is Google and Amazon’s USD 1.2 million contract with the Israeli government and military. This worker is part of the No Tech for Apartheid campaign, a movement of tech workers at both Google and Amazon, demanding that the companies drop Project Nimbus. 

The No Tech for Apartheid campaign released a statement condemning the firing of this employee. “Google has engaged in a clear cut act of retaliation against its own worker for speaking up about the terms and conditions of their labor,” said the organization. “As a Cloud Software Engineer on critical technology that enables Project Nimbus to run on sovereign Israeli data centers, this worker spoke from a place of deep personal concern about the direct, violent impacts of their labor. They spoke from a deep belief that truly ethical engineering must account for the impact on communities around the world.”

According to the campaign, when Google HR asked this worker how they were feeling, they replied that they were “proud to be fired for refusing to be complicit in genocide.”

This is only the latest case in a series of cases of Google retaliating against workers for organizing, whether for Palestine solidarity or against unethical business decisions. Ariel Koren, who was a Google marketing manager, resigned in 2022 after experiencing “retaliation, a hostile environment, and illegal actions by the company,” in her own words. Up until that point, she had been organizing against Project Nimbus for over a year. 

In 2020, Google researcher Timnit Gebru claimed she was fired for critiquing Google’s approach to hiring people of color and highlighting bias in Artificial Intelligence. In 2019, two Google workers claimed to have experienced retaliation in response to a walkout they had organized the year prior due to sexual harassment.

Since October 7, No Tech for Apartheid has become a key front in the Palestine solidarity movement, ramping up its organizing of tech workers and joining forces with other large solidarity organizations including the Palestinian Youth Movement and Jewish Voice For Peace to participate in mass mobilizations across the country. 

Mohammad, a Google worker and organizer with No Tech for Apartheid, told Peoples Dispatch that the campaign has experienced a large influx of workers joining the campaign due to the raising of mass consciousness since October 7. Among the workers, “Google is losing its sense of wonder and innovation and selling that away for militarism and imperialism.” 

“No person wants to be complicit in genocide,” Mohammad said.