As was inevitable, the anti-Zionist campus protests have moved into the real world. Activists in the tech world are trying to force major firms to drop their contracts with Israeli companies and escalate the private-sector boycott movement.

A faceoff at Amazon between activists and investors reveals the stakes of the fight as well as the way outside pressure groups infiltrate and organize within companies.

In his newsletter this week, Reuters’ Ross Kerber notes that for Amazon’s annual meeting on May 22, there is an item on the proxy vote card calling for the company to hire an independent review of its web services contracts (essentially cloud storage and related services) with the Israeli government. The filing, made by shareholder American Baptist Home Mission Society, claims Israel uses Amazon to further “the apartheid system under which Palestinians are surveilled, unlawfully detained, and tortured.”

Amazon points out that, unsurprisingly, the Baptist missionaries (and anyone else who has complained of their work with Israeli clients) has never backed up this accusation. That is rarely the point of these stunts, however. Usually they represent an attempt to set public-relations fires to shame companies out of working with clients in the Jewish state.

The Anti-Defamation League and its affiliate JLens filed a memo against the BDS-inspired paranoia behind the proposal. The Baptist group going after Israel is part of a progressive Christian coalition known as the Investor Advocates for Social Justice. That group’s director, Courtney Wicks, made clear she hope to piggyback on the pro-Hamas encampments on college campuses and the attention they’ve received by mounting a multi-front campaign against Israel: “We have to make a case there is a pattern of issues.”

It is not just Amazon but also Google—two of the world’s largest companies by market cap—where this drama is playing out.

The background here begins three years ago, when Israel awarded Amazon and Google the contracts to shift the government to the cloud. (Amazon and Google beat out Microsoft and Oracle.) The country was hoping, as Haaretz’s Amitai Ziv put it at the time, the move would “lead to increased foreign investments in Israel’s infrastructure and … will be a boon for the local tech industry.” The maintenance and creation of local cloud servers would presumably create jobs domestically as well.

The shareholder note for the Amazon meeting links to a Forbes article on the protests targeting both companies. “We call on every single Google worker that is listening to choose action over apathy,” a former Google employee is quoted as saying at a rally. Signs at the demonstrations say “No Tech For Apartheid.” That former Google employee is Ariel Koren. While at Google, Koren became in essence a lobbyist against her employer’s work with its Israeli client, taking full advantage of the time and access made available to her by her Covid-era arrangement of working remotely from San Francisco (she had been based in Mexico City). She quit Google when the company sought to send her back out into field post-pandemic. (She claims it was retaliation but the National Labor Relations Board found that accusation to be baseless.) Koren also appears to have been active in the internal Google email threads as a reliable anti-Israel stalwart among her colleagues.

In fact, much of this seems to have stemmed from resentment over a Black Lives Matter-related controversy. In 2020, a month after George Floyd’s killing, a Google web director emailed an apology to the Jewish Google employees’ list—called, yes, the Jewglers—for the company’s donation to the Movement for Black Lives. M4BL, as it is known, had drafted its political platform a few years earlier and included a sharp bit of Holocaust inversion—accusing the Jewish state of being genocidal. Left-wing Jewish groups were appalled at the gratuitous lie about Israel being part of a foundational document for a coalition for blacks’ rights.

Koren was furious that Google would violate a basic tenet of so-called “woke capitalism,” that you never apologize for making people uncomfortable so long as the people made uncomfortable are outside the ideological circle of trust. You don’t apologize to Jews for anti-Semitism; “white-adjacent” communities are supposed to be made uncomfortable. That’s what justice means to activists like Koren.

Koren’s compatriots at Google have set up a website that hosts Google employees’ complaints about the company’s friendly posture toward Israelis. It becomes very clear very quickly that worries about supposed surveillance are the farthest thing from their minds. Of Israel, one “anonymous Palestinian googler” says “this entity is known to exist solely due to the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians” (emphasis added). Moreover, the Jews are responsible for racial strife all over the world, according to this employee: “Its fatal tactics that are tested on Palestinians are then used on Black and Brown folks here in the US. Therefore, by building tools for the Israeli military and investing in the further development of their weaponry and surveillance tactics, Google is also indirectly strengthening the testing grounds for bringing fatal policing tactics here to the US, impacting our Black and Brown brothers and sisters.”

Another: “It is clear Google doesn’t care about antisemitism when it comes to truly protecting religious and ethnic minorities from the threats of the rise in white Christian nationalism.” The site gives a prominent link to an organizing page for the “No Tech for Apartheid” campaign, which is hosted by Linda Sarsour’s organization MPower Change.

Whatever this is, it’s not a serious discussion about technology and surveillance. And it isn’t some noble effort to protect democracy from powerful corporations. It’s a crusade against Israel’s existence. And it’s not just on campus. The battlefield has moved to the shareholders meetings at the world’s biggest companies.

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