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Does Intel support Israel? What to know about the company and why people are protesting

High heat and a thirst for innovation bring the two regions closer than ever

As the Israel-Hamas war has raged on since the Oct. 7 Hamas attack on Israel, pressure has been mounting on the United States government for its continued funding toward the country and its military.

Similar efforts of pressure are starting to befall American companies that are involved with Israel, including one with ties to the metro Phoenix area.

Israel is the largest cumulative recipient of U.S. aid since 1946, receiving more than $300 billion, with more than 70% going toward Israel's military, according to the Council on Foreign Relations. The U.S. has continued to support Israel since the war began, as there have been two foreign military sales to Israel that have been made public: a $106 million investment for tank ammunition and a $147.5 millioninvestment toward components needed to make 155 mm shells.

In the six months since the start of the war, 30,000 Palestinians have reportedly been killed, and more than 360,000 buildings have been leveled, according to the Palestinian Ministry of Health. There were a reported 1,200 Israeli deaths and 259 deaths in Gaza, according to the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

How did the war begin?

More than 1,500 Hamas-led militants stormed across the fortified Israel border on Oct. 7, killing almost 1,200 people in Israel before retreating back into Gaza with more than 240 hostages.

Within hours of the attack, Israel unleashed an aerial bombardment on Gaza, and on Oct. 27 the ground invasion began.

The U.S. is the largest provider of aid to Gaza, sending more than $180 million in humanitarian assistance since the war began.

President Joe Biden and the U.S. have faced increasing pressure from both politicians and civilians to change their course on their support and funding of the war, particularly after the death of seven aid workers earlier this month.

That same pressure is being felt by American companies who have facilities in Israel: Intel is one of the world's largest semiconductor chip and computer hardware manufacturers headquartered in Santa Clara, California, with offices in Phoenix.

Intel currently ranks as Arizona's 11th-largest nongovernmental employer, with 13,000 employees as of last year's Repubic 100 special report.

It set up shop in Chandler in 1980 and the city is now home to Intel’s only two large-scale facilities in Arizona. The company generates nearly $9 billion in statewide economic impact each year. 

What ties does Intel have with Israel?

Intel has deep roots within Israel, dating back more than 50 years. The first Intel development center in Israel was built in Haifa in 1974, marking the first Intel center to be built outside of the U.S.

The tech company now has three development centers in Haifa, Petah Tikva, and Jerusalem, as well as a manufacturing facility in Kiryat Gat. Intel has expanded many other nations as well and now operates in 46 different countries.

Intel reports that it has 11,700 employees working in Israel and 42,000 more through indirect employment. It is one of the largest companies in Israel's market, garnering over $8.7 billion in exports as of 2022, representing 5.5% of hi-tech exports from Israel and 1.75% of the country's GDP. In 2017, Intel purchased MobileEye, an Israeli autonomous driving company, for $15 billion to position themselves at the forefront of the autonomous car industry and to expand their technology, according to the company.

Intel has reported investments of more than $50 billion into its facilities in Israel, and its procurements in the country total more than $25.2 billion.

What is Intel's stance on the Israel-Hamas war?

Intel's CEO Pat Gelsinger went on a Fox Sports Business broadcast on Dec. 23, 2023, to address the Israel-Hamas war and his company's involvement in Israel. In the broadcast, he expressed a strong solidarity with Israel.

"For almost 50 years, we were the first company to start the tech nation there," Gelsinger said. "I was just on the phone, yesterday, with Isaac Herzog, the president of the country. This is a resilient people. We will support them. We believe so deeply in what they've done."

Gelsinger also noted that despite his company being devoted to its business in Israel, he supported a quick and peaceful resolution to the war.

"We're also supporting the humanitarian efforts across the region as well," Gelsinger said. "We pray for peace to come quickly to the region and a more permanent solution because this isn't a new problem. This is thousands of years in the making, but we are deeply committed to our operations (there)."

Three days later, on Dec. 26, Israel's Ministry of Finance announced that a $25 billion chip manufacturing plant from Intel was approved to be built in Kiryat Gat, in addition to Intel's factory that's already there.

The tech company received a $3.2 billion grant for the expansion. Intel planned to start operations by 2028 and continue until at least 2035. In a news release on April 15, Intel announced that construction of the plant is underway.

Protesters speak out against Intel's involvement in Israel

On Monday, a 15-hour-long protest was organized outside of Intel's campus in Chandler, in connection to the boycott campaign against Intel that was started by the Palestinian-led Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS).

The campaign gained media attention after McDonald's Malaysia filed a lawsuit against them that was later dropped. In January 2024, the BDS movement called for a global boycott of McDonald's Malaysia, citing the company's support of Israeli occupation forces and bullying of Palestine solidarity activists.

Asked to comment on the protests and boycotts against the company, an Intel representative issued a statement saying, "Intel respects the rights of individuals to peacefully express their views, including our employees."

Around 20 people gathered Monday morning, with participants going to and from the protest, which began at 6 a.m., as the day wore on. Protesters said they planned to stay until 9 p.m.

The protesters stood on each of the four street corners off Intel Way and West Chandler Boulevard, waving Palestinian flags and signs at drivers as they passed by. Many of the signs criticized the company and industry as a whole, reading phrases such as "no tech for apartheid," "Big tech supports genocide," "Intel has blood on their hands," and more.

Megan Johnson was one of the protesters advocating against Intel. She said she believes it is her duty as a U.S. citizen to stand up for the people suffering in Gaza.

"This is a horrible, horrible relationship between the United States and Israel that is causing so much damage to so many people around the world," Johnson said.

"It's just time to divest from companies like Intel that supply their products to Israel to fight this and also to divest from the U.S. ... We are privileged to be living in the U.S., and we need to use our privilege to speak out against these atrocities."

Johnson is also protesting against the U.S. by refusing to pay her taxes, as she said she won't stand for what they are being funded toward.

"This is Tax Day, and it's important to understand that your tax dollars are going to fund a genocide right now, killing hundreds of thousands of women and children, men, everyone," Johnson said.

Marina Thomas, another protester, said she hopes the demonstration will encourage people to educate themselves about the conflict.

"(Our goal is) to just touch people's humanity and kind of be in their face about it in real life because I know we see things through the news," Thomas said. "But I think just being here and showing them to their face that we care, maybe they'll educate themselves about what's going on."

Thomas said the reaction from passers-by has been a combination of support and disdain.

"It's a mix," Thomas said. "There's people that are coming by and honking and waving at us and (putting their) thumbs up.

Some people have been vulgar or aggressive, she said.

Demonstrator Emily Rios said she has a Palestinian husband and a half-Palestinian child. She said she couldn't stand to see Palestinians painted as villains in this conflict and thinks that there should be more love and empathy spread to those suffering.

"I'm really passionate because I look at (my child) and I would cry," Rios said. "I get really emotional because a lot of those dead kids look like her.

"I see her face in their faces, and I've just been out here advocating for them because it's awful what they're painting Palestinians as, like terrorists and terrible people. It's not true. They're very loving. They're just like you and me."

Israeli tech community reacts to protests

Amir Glogau is the founder and managing partner of Citrine Capital Partners, a private equity firm, and is on the board of the Arizona-Israel Tech Alliance.

The alliance is a nonprofit organization that aims to provide resources to help tech companies from Arizona and Israel collaborate with each other and help these companies get easier access to technology, talent, capital and a friendly development environment. It works with companies related to cybersecurity, water technology, agriculture and more.

Glogau said that the Israel-Hamas war has slowed the tech space in Israel due to many people being affected by the Oct. 7 Hamas attack and others being in the reserves of the Israeli Defense Force, but he still believes there are opportunities.

Glogau said the draft has especially impacted the tech space.

"But not so much our relationship because no matter what, people are more curious about opportunities and about investments in Israel," Glogau said.

Glogau said that while the war has affected the efficiency of the tech space, it hasn't changed the motivation for companies investing in Israel. He thinks it's important to understand the economic reasons for companies like Intel being involved in Israel, and why they won't be pressured to change their course on their decisions to invest and expand in the country.

"I don't think that there can be actually any pressure on an organization like Intel to make an investment, or not to make an investment," Glogau said. "At the end of the day, you're sitting in a public company with a board of investors that have economical considerations, and a vision, and a valued strategy that they need to execute.

Glogau thinks that Israel will continue to be home to a rapidly growing industry in the tech space, and that companies will continue to invest there.

"I think Israel will be a very attractive place for companies that want to have access to technology and want to advance their societies and organizations, and we would love to have many organizations that want to collaborate with us," Glogau said.

USA Today reporter John Bacon contributed to this article.

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