Amazon barred employees from hanging signs to acknowledge Israeli co-worker held hostage by Hamas

Bill Ackman, the billionaire hedge fund manager, defended Amazon on his X social media account over the weekend after the e-commerce giant came under criticism for its silence over an Israeli employee being held hostage by Hamas terrorists in the Gaza Strip.

Sasha Troufanov, a 28-year-old computer engineer with the Tel Aviv-based microelectronics firm Annapurna Labs, an Amazon subsidiary, was among the roughly 250 people abducted by Hamas terrorists during the murderous attacks on Oct. 7, which left nearly 1,200 Israelis dead.

Amazon employees in Israel have hung signs, made t-shirts and held events in solidarity with Troufanov, but they are reportedly frustrated over management declining to issue any public statement about his abduction.

Thinking more about the Amazon employee hostage situation:

I believe @amazon is a responsible and ethical company.

The first priority of every CEO is the health and safety of his/her employees.

One of Amazons employees is being held hostage by Hamas.

One would therefore

Calling Amazon a “responsible and ethical company,” Ackman reasoned that management hasn’t said anything publicly about Troufanov because it “does not believe it is advisable to say anything about the situation.”

“It must believe that speaking publicly is harmful rather than helpful,” Ackman wrote.

An Israeli publication reported over the weekend that Amazon employees of its Israel-based tech subsidiary were discouraged from hanging signs to mark the number of days Troufanov has been held hostage by Hamas captivity.

On the morning of Oct. 7, Hamas gunmen infiltrated Troufanov’s hometown of Kibbutz Nir Oz near the Gaza frontier and grabbed him, his girlfriend, Sapir Cohen; his mother, Yelena Troufanov, and his grandmother, Irena Tati.

Troufanov’s father, Vitali, a Russian immigrant to Israel, was killed.

Troufanov’s mother, grandmother and girlfriend were freed by Hamas as part of an earlier truce between the group and the Israeli government six weeks after the attack.

On the day of the massacre, Cohen witnessed her boyfriend “beaten bloody and thrown face-first into the ground,” she told the Jerusalem Post reported last week.

Troufanov remains captive more than seven months later.

After the carnage, Jewish employees at Amazon both in Israel and in its offices worldwide wanted to hang signs on company grounds marking the number of days Troufanov was being held in the Hamas-run Gaza Strip.

But the idea was quashed by Amazon executives in the company’s human resources department, according to a report in the Hebrew-language business newspaper Globes.

When the workers asked Amazon management to put the directive in writing, they were refused, according to the report.

“Someone had the idea to hang signs that noted the amount of time that Sasha was working at Amazon juxtaposed with the number of days that he has been held captive, but the directive [from management] was not to hang them,” an Amazon employee is quoted as telling Globes.

The Post has sought comment from Amazon.

Despite HR’s directive, several Amazon workers in Israel began hanging signs expressing solidarity with Troufanov.

They also hung notices announcing regularly scheduled group meetups that were known as “Coffee For Sasha,” according to Globes.

Several employees made T-shirts emblazoned with the logo of Amazon’s Prime service next to messages demanding his release.

According to the report, Amazon’s management has allowed these activities to take place without intervening or cracking down.

But Amazon workers in its global offices are more fearful of staging similar acts of solidarity, Globes reported.

One employee was quoted by Globes as saying that workers were frustrated by the silence coming from Amazon CEO Andy Jassy as well as other non-Israel-based executives of the company.

“There are Jewish employees at Amazon who only found out two or three months after the fact that there was an Amazon employee held captive in Gaza,” the employee said.

Just weeks after the Oct. 7 massacre, friends of Troufanov who were angered by the company’s official policy to remain silent on the issue flew to Las Vegas, where the CEO of Amazon Web Services spoke at a conference.

Troufanov’s friends hired a truck that was carrying screens bearing his face and name and drove the vehicle in the vicinity of the conference so attendees could see.

Neta Yesood Alon, a friend of Troufanov who took part in the Las Vegas demonstration, told Globes that Amazon management was giving a “cold shoulder” to any expressions of solidarity coming from employees toward their captive colleague.

“Amazon in Israel is providing assistance for whatever we need, but if it’s not being communicated outward, so who is the message for?” she said.

Yesood Alon said she was “bemused” by Amazon’s stance giving that the company has in the past supported movements such as Black Lives Matter, “but when it comes to a kidnapped employee held hostage in Gaza, it sees it as a political issue.”

She said that an Amazon employee told her and other friends of Troufanov that “public statements on his case will put him in danger.”

“They told activists and the family that any official public statement from Amazon could endanger Troufanov and they don’t want to turn Sasha into the poster boy of the kidnapped Israelis because that would drive up [the price that the Israeli government would have to pay] to release him,” she said.

Yesood Alon said she and others asked the former head of the Israeli Mossad spy agency, Yossi Cohen, if this was true, “and his answer was unequivocally no.”

An Amazon spokesperson told Globes: “We continue to focus all of our efforts to bring Sasha home safe and to extend support to his family during these difficult times.”

“Our thoughts are with them and with all of those who continue to be impacted by the war.”