Google Sanctions Use of Anti-Semitic Slogan

A human resources official defends use of eliminationist rhetoric in email to Jewish employee

A pro-Palestinian protest sign (Adam Berry / AFP via Getty Images)
June 23, 2021

Google’s human resources department earlier this week sanctioned an employee’s use of the phrase "From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free," the eliminationist call-to-arms frequently employed by anti-Israel activists.

The company's determination came after a Jewish employee raised concerns about the anti-Semitic slogan by a top Google union official on an internal company profile. The company maintains an internal database containing contact information and personal profiles that appear in emails and other internal Google communications.

"The Googler who shared this phrase on his page did so as a show of solidarity with the Palestinian community, which Googlers are permitted to do in the workplace," the human resources employee wrote in an email response to the Jewish employee’s complaint obtained by the Washington Free Beacon. "While the phrase used is understandably divisive, it was not intended to be anti-Semitic in the way the author used it."

It is unclear whether Google’s determination extends beyond the information included on employees’ company profiles. The company did not respond to a request for comment.

A political slogan used by Palestinian nationalists and terrorist groups like the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, "From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free" describes an aspirational Palestinian state that would extend from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea, eliminating the state of Israel.

Google’s determination comes as the tech giant faces outrage and scrutiny from Jewish employees and Jewish organizations for its silence in the wake of a Free Beacon report earlier this month on an anti-Semitic blog post authored by a top member of the Google diversity team. Google reassigned the employee, Kamau Bobb, earlier this month to a role focused on science and technology education rather than diversity strategy but said little else about the matter.

Bobb’s 2007 blog post argued that Jews have an "insatiable appetite for war and killing."

The Simon Wiesenthal Center, a global anti-Semitism watchdog group, began an online ad campaign last week slamming Google for its "failure to address anti-Semitism in its workplace."

The ads note the search engine famously fired an engineering employee in 2017 who distributed a memo slamming the company’s gender diversity initiatives, but kept Bobb on at the company.

Google’s response to Bobb’s anti-Semitic remarks and to an increasing number of complaints from Jewish employees has been less vigorous than to other forms of prejudice. Parent company Alphabet on Tuesday shuttered a program aimed at fostering minority engineers after participants said it reinforced "systemic pay inequities," Reuters reported.

Rabbi Abraham Cooper, the associate dean for the Simon Wiesenthal Center, said the ads are a "shot across the bow" at Google and other corporations that have been tight-lipped about rising anti-Semitism within their companies and across the country. The group said the ads have received hundreds of thousands of views since the campaign began 10 days ago on Facebook, Google, and LinkedIn.

"Transferring Mr. Bobb to a different role sends a clear message that Google embraces a double standard in which anti-Semitism is less offensive and less worthy of opprobrium than other forms of hate," the organization said in a statement.