business news in context, analysis with attitude

From the Washington Post:

"As the world watches the death tolls in Israel and Gaza mount, tensions in the United States, where the corporate world has close ties to Israel, are reaching a boiling point. While many top executives made public statements in support of Israel following Hamas’s devastating Oct. 7 attack, some U.S. employees have begun to pressure management to make similar statements about Palestinian deaths following Israel’s bombing in Gaza.

"Employees at companies like Google and Amazon have pushed bosses to take a public political stance, but some say that, internally, calls for a cease fire have been unfairly censored. A handful of people — including a law student, an airline pilot and an adult-content influencer — in the United States and around the world have lost their jobs, or have faced discipline or backlash, for their online posts criticizing Israel. And the founder of a major tech conference resigned on Saturday after major sponsors pulled out of the upcoming event over his tweets calling Israel’s actions 'war crimes.'

"Meanwhile, employees feel threatened by the creation of websites attempting to blacklist workers who speak out against the war or in support of Palestinians.

"The U.S. government sends billions of dollars of foreign aid to Israel, and the tech, finance, science and energy sectors all do major business there, which makes the issue a sticky one for executives. Amazon, Meta and Google have offices in Israel, and employ thousands of people there, some of whom have been called up as reservists to fight in the Israel Defense Forces."

The Post adds:  "U.S. employees are aware that the Israel-Gaza conflict is an especially delicate — and personal — issue. But American workers, especially younger generations, increasingly expect their employers to take political stances."

Here's an example of a scenario that has rankled some:

"On Oct. 9, two days after Hamas’s brutal attack, Amazon CEO Andy Jassy sent an email to employees in Israel sharing his support, writing 'I’m thinking of you all at this incredibly hard time and understand that your immediate focus needs to be, first and foremost, on ensuring your safety and that of your loved ones.' He tweeted a similar message on the same day.

"No email has been sent to Palestinian employees in the United States or abroad, causing consternation among some of the approximately 2,000 members of the Arab employee group. 'Amazon does employ Arab employees, and our lives are just as equal,' said the Amazon employee. 'They have a lot of employees this is affecting on the other side. We’re not all terrorists, we’re just humans who have families in those situations'."

KC's View:

There was some discussion here on MNB last week about why I had not weighed in on the Israel-Hamas situation and drawn business lessons from it, and I essentially took the position that this is a morass from which, at least at the moment, it seemed inappropriate to draw business lessons.

This story underlines the reason why.  It is extraordinarily complex - and we live in a culture where nuanced conversation and exchange of ideas is not welcomed.  Most of the time, it is not even tolerated.  Words like "blacklist" get tossed around, and yet, as the Post points out, employees expect their companies to take positions.

It just feels like a gas-soaked pile of firewood, and everybody is carrying matches.

In trying to understand the military and political situation, I have found the columns of Thomas Friedman in the New York Times, Peggy Noonan in the Wall Street Journal and David Ignatius in the Washington Post to be instructive.  I'm not going to summarize them here, but recommend you track them down online.