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War on Gaza: UK healthcare workers 'blockade' Palantir office over support for Israel

Palantir, which says it is 'supporting Israel in every way we can', has been awarded a multi-million dollar contract by NHS England to handle patient data
Healthcare workers held the blockade outside Palantir's offices to coincide with junior doctor strikes over pay (Yassin Soudan/MEE)

Standing in blue scrubs and holding Palestine flags, dozens of healthcare workers on Thursday protested outside the London offices of Palantir UK, the British arm of the American tech company that has vowed to keep the Israeli government "armed and ahead" in its ongoing bombardment of Gaza.

Activists from Healthcare Workers for Palestine blocked the entrance to Palantir's building on Soho Square to protest against both the company's support for Israel's war in Gaza and NHS England's recent decision to give Palantir a contract worth £330m ($413m) to handle patient data.

Israel has bombed and attacked hospitals in Gaza, killing and arresting doctors, surgeons and senior hospital officials. On Thursday, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the head of the World Health Organisation, said there were no longer any functioning hospitals in northern Gaza.

Alex Karp, Palantir's chief executive, has said the Colorado-based company is "supporting Israel in every way we can".

Harriet, a spokesperson for healthcare workers for Palestine, who helped organise the protest, said she was worried that Palantir could not be trusted with patient data. 

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"This new deal [with Palantir] doesn't just affect me as a doctor. They have been involved in racial profiling of marginalised communities in America and supporting the Israeli occupation. If they have our patient data, I do not trust that they will use it ethically," said Harriet, who also works as a junior doctor in the NHS. 

"Palestinian medical unions have made a call for medics across the world to stand with them as Israel targets their healthcare system in Gaza using Palantir's technology - and that is why we are here."

Many of the healthcare workers who stood outside the Palantir officers covered their faces and wore masks to protect their identities due to fears of being reprimanded by the NHS for showing public support for Palestine. 

Healthcare workers said the NHS decision to award Palantir a contract was a mistake
Healthcare workers raised concerns over the NHS decision to award Palantir a contract worth millions of dollars (Yassin Soudan/MEE)

Chanting "shame on you" at Palantir, and the NHS for awarding them a contract, many workers held baby dolls to signify the number of children killed in Gaza since Israel launched its bombardment of the Gaza Strip. 

Thursday's picket outside Palantir's offices also coincides with a new round of junior doctor strikes that aim to pressure the government to agree to pay rises beyond existing agreed increases to compensate for below-inflation pay increases since 2008.

Follow MEE's live coverage of the Gaza war

Earlier this year, junior doctors voted to go on a six-day strike after the government offered them a 3 percent pay rise following a nine percent rise they received in April.

'Many of us are also afraid to speak out given the online campaigns against healthcare workers since Israel began its bombing of Gaza'

- NHS medical worker

Mesh, a medical worker in the NHS, who did not want to give their full name, said the junior doctor strikes in England are "intrinsically linked" to the health service's decision to award Palantir a multi-million dollar contract.

"We've seen in the last few decades a decimation of the NHS via cuts and privatisation of parts of the health service. Palantir and the state of the NHS as we see it is linked, and a brilliant example of how our service is run," said Mesh. 

"What is happening in Gaza breaks our heart and affects us deeply as healthcare workers as our colleagues continue to be targeted by Israel. Many of us are also afraid to speak out given the online campaigns against healthcare workers since Israel began its bombing of Gaza and worry that the British Medical Association will not support us."

Palantir, which has an office in Tel Aviv, has been criticised by rights groups for selling technology to Israel and showing overt support for Israel's bombardment of the Gaza Strip.

A social media post on 12 October by Palantir said: “Certain kinds of evil can only be fought with force. Palantir stands with Israel.”

In a letter to shareholders on 2 November, the company said: “We are one of a few companies in the world to stand up and announce our support for Israel, which remains steadfast.”

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Joe Lonsdale, another of Palantir’s co-founders, said Israel was “doing what it has to do and eliminating the bad guys,” and “we are trying to keep the good guys armed and ahead.”

Lonsdale said: “When we were building Palantir we actually learnt a lot from the Israelis. They’re quite good at what they do and one of my proudest moments was when Israel started working with Palantir. So Palantir helps Israel do a lot of things too.”

The company describes its military technologies as offering customers “mission-tested capabilities, forged in the field” to deliver “a tactical edge - by land, air, sea and space".

Palantir was founded in 2004 with some funding provided by a CIA-backed venture capital firm, and provides services to the US military and intelligence agencies and armed forces in the UK and other western countries.

Palantir’s current chair is Peter Thiel, a technology billionaire who also co-founded PayPal and backed Donald Trump’s winning US presidential campaign in 2016.

Middle East Eye asked Palatir for comment but had not received a response at the time of publication.

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