The Amazon Labor Union, which represents more than 8,000 employees at the tech behemoth, took part in a protest on Wednesday accusing Israel of apartheid and genocide in response to an Amazon contract with the Israeli government.
Videos and photos provided to The Algemeiner show executives from AWS and Salesforce being disrupted at least five times during their keynote address at the Amazon Web Services summit in New York. Dozens of protesters outside the event held signs with slogans including “Zionism is Genocide,” “Israeli Apartheid and Genocide Funded by the US,” and “Amazon Profit$ Off Israel’s Military Occupation.” The organizers claim that Wednesday’s anti-Israel protest was the first time that Amazon tech workers and warehouse workers have protested together.
Another speaker and organizer at Wednesday’s protest, the Palestinian-American activist Linda Sarsour, who has a history of making statements widely considered by Jewish groups to be antisemitic and whose MPower Change organization runs the ongoing #NoTechForApartheid campaign against Amazon and Google, said that she was happy to see Israel’s democracy “crumble from within” amid the judicial reform protests.
“I want you all to know that while the Palestinian people are suffering oppression, brutality, and murder and genocide at the hands of the state of Israel, they’re still resilient,” Sarsour said.
The Amazon Labor Union’s President Christian Smalls on Twitter Wednesday liked and retweeted a post describing the protest as opposing the “Israeli apartheid regime,” while the union’s main Twitter account approvingly quote Tweeted a post from Sarsour’s MPower Change.
The organizers of the protest, which included the Amazon Labor Union, the Alphabet Workers Union and Jewish Voice for Peace, allege that Amazon and Alphabet–the parent company of Google–are participating in Israeli “apartheid” against the Palestinians as a result of a $1.2 billion contract the companies have signed with the Israeli government for cloud computing services. The “Project Nimbus” contract aims to move Israeli government services into the cloud with support from the two tech giants.
The Anti-Defamation League told The Algemeiner in a statement that some of the groups organizing the protest have expressed radical and hateful messages about Israel and its American Jewish supporters for years.
“It is not surprising that they would use inflammatory and demonizing slogans which many American Jews would find offensive and threatening,” an ADL spokesperson said. “We hope that the organized labor movement rejects the pull of divisive campaigns and fringe organizations.”
The American Jewish Committee (AJC) told The Algemeiner in a statement that singling out Israel for using technology that governments around the world are pursuing is a clear indication of anti-Israel animus.
“To say that Israel covets this technology to oppress Palestinians is yet another example of blatant anti-Israel hatred and bias,” AJC said in a statement. “Israel has every right to modernize its society.”
The Amazon Labor Union (ALU) was founded in 2021 by current and former employees of the JFK8 Amazon warehouse in Staten Island, New York. In April 2022 the more than 8,000 workers at JFK8 became the first unionized Amazon workers to be recognized by the National Labor Relations Board in what was hailed by The New York Times as “one of the biggest victories for organized labor in a generation” and received congratulations from President Joe Biden.
The ALU’s protest against Amazon doing business with Israel puts it out of step with the nation’s largest labor unions, which oppose the BDS movement. In 2007 the leaders of the AFL-CIO, the American Federation of Teachers, the Teamsters and more than 40 other labor unions and federations signed on to a letter organized by the Jewish Labor Committee formally opposing the BDS movement.
The ALU did not respond to The Algemeiner’s request for comment about their participation in an anti-Israel protest.
Speaking at the rally Wednesday, one of the ALU’s co-founders, Jordan Flowers, said that Amazon “should have nothing to do with the Israeli government.”
“We are here today to fight back, and everyone should have their chance to say that Amazon needs to be held accountable, Google needs to be held accountable, and the Israeli government should be held accountable for all charges and crimes,” Flowers said.
Asked by The Algemeiner about the comments by the ALU and Amazon tech workers that Amazon was participating in “apartheid” and that its executives were “war profiteers” because of the Project Nimbus contract, a spokesperson for Amazon told The Algemeiner that Amazon “respect [its] employees’ right to express themselves.”
“AWS is focused on making the benefits of our world-leading cloud technology available to all our customers, wherever they are located,” the spokesperson said.