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Google Stockholders Reject Activists’ Claim Israel Cloud Deal Causes Harm

  • Stakeholders of Alphabet, Google’s parent company, overwhelmingly voted down a proposal to reassess a $1.3 billion Google Cloud contract with Israel.
  • The proposal’s backers alleged the contract would support human rights violations against Palestinians.
  • Amazon stakeholders have submitted a similar proposal.

A BDS-sponsored initiative urged a major tech company to reassess a data center deal with the Israeli government over accusations of apartheid, but most of the company’s shareholders voted against the proposal earlier this month.

The proposal had the backing of several organizations aligned with the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, according to a website started by the initiators. Shareholders of Alphabet, Google’s parent company, who filed the proposal in May, claimed contracts between Google and “militaries and militarized policing agencies” would likely cause harm, highlighting Israel’s cloud services Nimbus Project as an example.

“Project Nimbus associates Google with harmful, ethically questionable activities, such as military-enforced, racially discriminatory restriction of movement that cruelly causes separation of families, and displacement and dispossession of Palestinian families while allowing for the expansion of illegal settlements,” the proposal, filed under the name of Edward Feigen, states.

Alphabet and Amazon won a $1.2 billion contract to provide cloud services for Israeli military and government institutions in 2021, according to Times Of Israel. The contract is part of Project Nimbus, an initiative that will allow Israel to utilize Google Cloud and AWS, eventually constructing local facilities for data storage.

Out of roughly 600 million votes shareholders cast during Alphabet’s annual stakeholder meeting on June 1, only 50 million voted for the proposal, according to the meeting report. Voters received one vote for each Class A stock and ten for each Class B stock they held, according to the Jerusalem Post.

No Tech For Apartheid, supported by numerous BDS-affiliated organizations, helped organize the proposal, according to the organization’s website. Gabriel Shubner of No Tech For Apartheid presented the proposal at Alphabet’s shareholder meeting.

“I’m deeply troubled by Google’s recent efforts to sign contracts with militaries and policing agencies,” she said at the meeting, the Jerusalem Post reported.

Alphabet’s board of directors recommended against verifying the proposal. In an April 2022 proxy statement, to which a Google spokesperson referred The Daily Caller News Foundation, the board highlighted Google’s “AI Principles” that prevent Google Cloud from developing solutions that would cause harm, directly or indirectly.

“We recognize that various applications of those tools raise important challenges that we need to address thoughtfully and affirmatively. We have robust policies and processes, guiding principles, and terms of service that govern our work with our customers and partners, including our work with government and military customers,” the statement said.

However, the contract allegedly does not include provisions for parties to back out, according to The Times of Israel.

Google has curtailed activity for non-business reasons, such as when it suspended ad sales in Russia after Putin’s decision to invade Ukraine. In September, it took steps to prevent the Taliban from accessing accounts of the former Afghan government employees.

Google and Amazon workers under the umbrella Workers Against Nimbus had submitted an anonymous letter, published in The Guardian, condemning Project Nimbus for human rights abuses in 2021. Over one thousand workers reportedly signed the document, according to Schubiner.

Shareholders at Amazon also issued a request for the company to commission an independent report on its involvement in Project Nimbus, which Amazon recommended voting against, according to a May 2022 proxy statement.

No Tech For Apartheid, Workers Against Nimbus and AWS did not immediately respond to TheDCNF’s request for comment.

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