UK health workers protest tech firm backing Israel amid Gaza war

UK health workers protest tech firm backing Israel amid Gaza war
Pro-Palestine health workers protested for NHS England to cancel a contract worth up to £330 million with a group of companies led by US tech firm Palantir.
2 min read
21 December, 2023
Protesters held a banner reading 'No Palantir in the NHS' during their picket on Thursday [Talia Woodin, @taltakingpics]

Health workers protested on Monday outside the London office of US tech firm Palantir, which has expressed "steadfast" support for Israel amid the Gaza war.

The demonstrators demanded that the NHS England public health service cancel a contract for a new data system project, worth up to £330 million ($417 million) over seven years, with a group of companies led by Palantir.

The picket by Health Workers for a Free Palestine, described in a press release as a "blockade", came on the second of three days of strikes over pay by NHS junior doctors in England.

"This Palantir deal exemplifies the asset-stripping of our health service which is being used to line the pockets of private companies while the NHS faces chronic underfunding and junior doctors like me who are currently on strike are suffering a real-terms pay cut," said Zara, a member of the British Medical Association trade union and Health Workers for a Free Palestine.

The protesting health workers, who chanted "Free, free Palestine" urged that NHS England bring data management back in-house and end the privatisation of NHS services.

Live Story

They held a banner reading: "No Palantir in the NHS."

NHS England has previously said that no firm involved in the new data system can access health and care data without the NHS giving explicit authorisation.

It said the platform will "join up key information currently held in separate NHS systems" to "tackle some of the big challenges the health service faces coming out of the [coronavirus] pandemic".

The protest outside Palantir's office follows a call for support from Palestinian health unions over Israel's "systematic targeting of healthcare facilities", the press release about the picket said.

Pro-Palestine protesters outside Palantir's office in London
Protesters picketed the London office of US tech firm Palantir on Thursday [photo credit: Talia Woodin, @taltakingpics]

In a letter to shareholders dated 2 November, Palantir CEO and co-founder Alex Karp said the company, which has an office in Tel Aviv, "stands with Israel".

"We are one of a few companies in the world to stand up and announce our support for Israel, which remains steadfast," he said.

Live Story

It came amid Israel's brutal war on Gaza, which has so far killed 20,000 people.

Israeli forces have attacked hospitals, ambulances, and homes as they wage their military campaign.

Hamas and other Palestinian armed groups carried out a surprise attack inside Israeli territory on 7 October, killing 1,139 people, according to Israeli authorities.

The New Arab contacted Palantir for comment but did not receive a response before publication.

NHS England directed this news outlet to a November press release about its upcoming data system.