Amazon workers: Co discouraged action for abducted colleague

Sasha Troufanov  credit: Private source
Sasha Troufanov credit: Private source

Amazon's silence on the abduction of hardware engineer Sasha Troufanov to the Gaza Strip is apparently a matter of policy.

Amazon has come in for criticism since the start of the Swords of Iron war because of its silence over the fact that one of its employees in Israel, Sasha Troufanov, was abducted to the Gaza Strip on October 7. Troufanov works at the Annapurna Labs division of the company, which is responsible for development of the artificial intelligence chips of its cloud servers. Since October 7, apart from internal mail from the head of Amazon Israel to employees in Israel, the company has not officially commented on the abduction and has not publicly called for his release, as, for example, Nvidia did in the case of its abducted engineer Avinatan Or.

It now emerges, from correspondence that has reached "Globes", that behind Amazon’s maintenance of a low public profile lies a policy. In the first weeks of the war, members of a Jewish Affinity group of Amazon employees outside of Israel were advised by the group organizers not to hang posters expressing identification with Troufanov, at the request of senior human resources people at Amazon.

"There was an initiative to hang posters stating how long Troufanov worked at Amazon versus how many days he had been held hostage, but the instruction was not to display them," one of the employees who is a member of the group said. When the group leaders requested the instruction in writing, they were refused.

Despite the instruction, Amazon employees in Israel began to put up posters concerning Troufanov, and a poster calling for regular meetings, "Coffee with Sasha." Some employees participated in voluntary activities calling for his release, and had themselves photographed with T-shirts printed with his picture and the logo of Amazon Prime. As far as is known, Amazon has tolerated this activity. The range of emojis at Amazon has been extended by a icon representing Sasha. Events have been held with the participation of his family and of his girlfriend Sapir Cohen, who was also abducted, and was released in the deal with Hamas.

But in Amazon offices around the world people are fearful of engaging in such acts of identification. Some of those who talked to "Globes" explained that there was frustration at the silence of the company’s global management. "Up to now, we haven’t heard a word about Troufanov from Amazon CEO Andy Jassy or anyone not part of Amazon Israel. In fact, there were Jewish employees around the world who, two or three months after the massacre, still didn’t know that Amazon had an employee being held hostage in the Gaza Strip."

Last November, Neta Yessod Alon, a close friend of Troufanov, organized, together with her friends, a protest action at the Amazon Web Services re:Invent conference in Las Vegas, where the Graviton processor, one of the drivers of the success of Amazon’s cloud services, on which Troufanov had worked, was displayed. They hired trucks on which Troufanov’s picture was projected, and handed out T-shirts. "Various activities by employees expressing identification with Troufanov were given the cold shoulder by the global management," says Yessod Alon. "Amazon Israel provides help with what’s needed, but if it’s not communicated to the outside world, who is the message for?

"It raises many questions. Amazon takes pride in being the best employer in the world, and is at the forefront of important campaigns such as the Black Lives Matter campaign, but when it comes to an employee held hostage in Gaza, it sees that as a political issue.

"Instead of wrapping Amazon’s building with signs calling for his release, it hired a worker to tell us that any public expression would endanger him. They explained to activists and the family that any public activity in Amazon’s name was liable to put Troufanov at risk, and that they didn’t want to turn Sasha into the poster child of the hostages, because that would raise his value. We asked the former Mossad head Yossi Cohen whether there was any truth to these arguments, and his answer was an unambiguous no."

Amazon stated in response: "We continue to focus all the time on all the efforts to bring Sasha back home safely and to ensure support for his family at this difficult time. Our thoughts are with them and with all those who continue to be affected by the war."

Published by Globes, Israel business news - - on May 26, 2024.

© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd., 2024.

Sasha Troufanov  credit: Private source
Sasha Troufanov credit: Private source
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