US computer graphics giant Nvidia will be directly employing more than 100 Palestinian engineers from the West Bank who have been working as external contractors with Mellanox Technologies, the Israeli company Nvidia acquired this year for USD 7 billion.
The Palestinian engineers will work as salaried employees of Nvidia with benefits, in a move hailed by Mellanox co-founder Eyal Waldman on social media as a “historic moment and an unprecedented achievement.” The workers, from Hebron, Rawabi, and Nablus, were previously employed by the Palestinian software and IT services outsourcing company ASAL Technologies and subcontracted to Mellanox.
Now, they will be employees of Nvidia, where they “will be the same as all other Nvidia employees in terms of compensation, in terms of opportunities to move between organizations, between locations. So it’s a completely different status to be in, in terms of compensation, flexibility, responsibilities, and opportunities for all of the Palestinian employees,” Waldman says.
Waldman tells NoCamels that Mellanox has been working with Palestinian engineers for a decade and the plan to employ them directly has been in the works for two years, before the Nvidia acquisition. “It didn’t happen but we set it as our goal,” he says in a phone interview.
In terms of compensation, he adds, “They are now one of the highest compensated teams in the Palestinian territories.”
In his Facebook post on Thursday, in Hebrew, English, and Arabic, Waldman praised the engineers for “their commitment, their professionalism and their excellence that has led to the completion of this historic moment in which a leading international high-tech company directly employs personnel in the Palestinian Authority.”
He also described working through outside criticisms, amid military conflicts and geopolitical tensions and putting the joint professional work first.
“The daily positive interactions between the Palestinian and Israeli teams have repeatedly demonstrated the immense potential inherent in a respectful discourse between people and the ability to put aside opinions and perceptions and unite together in one common goal. I am proud of the teams for creating a winning connection, one that supports, creates, and plays an integral part in the company’s success story,” wrote Waldman.
He tells NoCamels that he believes the teams from Palestinian areas will grow and that Nvidia is now looking for ways to directly employ about 20 Palestinian engineers from the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip. This will require working with the ruling authority in the Palestinian enclave. “We’re starting to explore this opportunity,” he explains.
Mellanox is one of just several companies with Palestinian workers in the West Bank and Gaza, and it has been a source of pride for the firm and Waldman.
When the Nvidia acquisition deal was first announced in 2019, Waldman told Israeli media, “I think a lot of employees became millionaires overnight, and I’m very proud of that. In Israel and in the [Palestinian] territories, we have employees in Gaza, Rawabi, Nablus, Hebron who also have Mellanox shares, and I think we will all benefit from this sale.”
Mellanox’s Palestinian workers had stock options even as contractors, and were reportedly offered to share a USD 3.5 million payout with the completion of the acquisition.
Other Israeli companies including Wix and Freightos, as well as multinationals like Microsoft Israel and Apple, also work with Palestinian contractors in the West Bank and Gaza, and Waldman says more companies should go this route.
But in recent years, Israeli and Palestinian entrepreneurs have touted a “win-win” solution: hiring Palestinian talent.
Waldman estimated that it requires about three to four months to bring Palestinian engineers up to speed with the training and says “they have great potential, they’re very good employees, and they’re very fast learners.”
More companies, he tells NoCamels, should utilize this “great talent pool.”
“It’s good for both sides. . . It’s a good opportunity for many companies and the more people do it, it’s better for them. On the financial side, and I think it’s also important for a geopolitical situation,” he says.
The hope is that “successful collaborations like this one will become more and more common in our region. And I call on more Israeli and international companies to make this day happen, to be exposed to the benefits of employing our neighbors and to discover the contribution that this connection can bring to our region,” he wrote in the Facebook post.
“In these days when polarization, hatred, nationalism and violence are taking up more and more space in our country, in our regions and our world—let us find the power to see the good, the right, the humane, the innovative, the conciliatory, and the tolerant which exist on both sides and in every one of us,” Waldman concluded.
This article first appeared in NoCamels, which covers innovations from Israel for a global audience.