Google employees in Durham protested outside of their office Thursday afternoon, calling on Google and Amazon to stop working with the Israeli government and military.
The protest, which included around 40 employees, was part of the national #NoTechforApartheid campaign, a movement based around a $1.22 billion project contract that Google and Amazon signed with the Israeli government in May 2021. Known as “Nimbus," the project intends to provide cloud support for Israel’s military and government.
Google and Amazon signed the deal while Israel was conducting airstrikes in civilian areas of the Gaza Strip and forcibly evicting several Palestinian families from the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah.
“Tech workers don’t want their labor being used to surveil Palestinians, expand illegal Israeli settlements, and inflict violence on Palestinians living under military occupation,” a flier passed out at the protest by Alphabet Workers Union, which represents Google employees, read.
In October 2021, hundreds of Google and Amazon employees signed an anonymous letter calling on their companies to cut all ties to Project Nimbus and the Israeli military.
“We envision a future where technology brings people together and makes life better for everyone. To build that brighter future, the companies we work for need to stop contracting with any and all militarized organizations in the U.S. and beyond,” the letter read.
The letter pointed out that the two companies have pursued contracts with the U.S. Department of Defense, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and state and local police departments. Those projects, the workers wrote, were “part of a disturbing pattern of militarization, lack of transparency and avoidance of oversight.”
“If you work for Google, you're very familiar with the impact that you can have. You work on things that everyone uses, your actions affect how millions, even billions of people, interact with technology on a daily basis,” AWU member Bjorn Pedersen said. “We want to build technologies that are core to our values, we need to create an institution that is accountable to us. And that's what the union is.”
While protestors were also rallying in San Francisco, Seattle and New York City the same day, Pedersen said that Durham’s protest was organized very quickly with the assistance of national and local partners.
“I think the community that we have here in Durham has a history of resisting oppression,” he said. “That's the thing that let us kind of punch above our weight a little bit and get on the bill with New York and San Francisco.”
Demilitarize! Durham2Palestine, a local advocacy group, helped organize the protest. D2P member Roxana Bendezú said that issues affecting Palestinians are also tied to the struggles that Durham residents have historically faced.
“When you think about what's happening in Palestine, and how people are literally being forcibly displaced from their communities from their lands, there's nothing else we can do but support this campaign,” Bendezu said. “Only if we care about each other, we're going to organize to defend human rights, not only here, but everywhere in the world.”
Counter protesters were also present. Several held printed signs that read, “Apartheid lies claim Jewish lives” and “#EndJewHatred.”
“The people who organized this are claiming that Israel is engaging in apartheid practices, which is clearly not true, because there are numerous examples of the Palestinians living side by side with the Israelis,” said Alexandra Ahdoot, a Duke sophomore.
She added that Palestinians are allowed to be citizens of Israel, live in the same neighborhoods as Israelis and serve in the Israeli army and government.
“I believe that this false narrative of apartheid in Israel is actually antisemitic at its core,” she said.
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Anisha Reddy is a Trinity junior and a senior editor of The Chronicle's 118th volume.