PayPal refuses to do business with Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, but allows Israelis and Israeli settlers to use their digital payment service. After PayPal ignored their requests for a meeting, Palestinian activists launched a Twitter campaign on Friday to call out the company in public with the hashtag #PayPal4Palestine.
The situation is an impediment for Palestinian tech workers and journalists, who have to get by using services other than PayPal, despite its being an industry standard for paying freelancers and even full-time employees. The group behind the hashtag, Americans for a Vibrant Palestinian Economy (A4VPE), says that Israeli restrictions on information technology are undermining American attempts at Palestinian economic development to the detriment of its youth.
“Palestine produces roughly 2,000 IT graduates per year that are well-positioned to address the huge gap between growing demand for online Arabic content and the current lack of supply. Currently, however, only one-third of these graduates find work in their field. Without access to the needed services that facilitate businesses to grow, more Palestinian youth will fall into the despair of unemployment and all that it carries with it,” wrote Sam Bahour, head of A4VPE, in a press release on Friday.
In an open letter to PayPal CEO Daniel Shulman, penned by A4VPE and signed by dozens of Palestinian advocacy groups, A4VPE said PayPal’s should not be concerned about doing business with Palestinians given it already operates in 203 countries around the world. More than that, Palestinian banking services have close connections with the U.S. Dept. of Treasury, which is responsible for ensuring U.S. cash does not flow to untoward activities abroad.
“We have been told that PayPal is concerned about the compliance investments required to enter the Palestinian market. We believe such costs have been greatly overestimated. The U.S. Treasury Department has spent a great deal of time working with the Palestine Monetary Authority to strengthen safeguards against abuse. PayPal currently operates in over 203 countries including places with major problems of corruption and terrorism like Somalia and Yemen. We are confident that Palestine will prove a much easier place to profitably do business than these and other markets that PayPal has already entered,” the group writes.
On Twitter, Palestinian supporters of the effort shared their views with the #PayPal4Palestine hashtag.
— Nadia AbuShaban® 💧 (@NadiaAbuShaban) August 26, 2016
— Dalia Alnajjar (@AlnajjarDalia) August 26, 2016
— Dalia Shurrab (@DaliaMSh) August 26, 2016
The Palestinian economy is linked into the global one by shekels, dollars, euros and Jordanian dinar. An international company PayPal, Bahour told Mondoweiss, has power similar to that of a government itself. PayPal, by failing to provide service to Palestinians, is standing in the way of millions of U.S. and European aid dollars meant to improve the lives of Palestinians.
“Our government spends millions and millions of dollars here trying to bring peace. Are Americans happy with their money going as a grant into the Palestinian authority without effort whatsoever to get the Palestinian economy to work for itself?” Bahour said.
With a strong Palestinian economy, U.S. “taxpayers could be relieved of those payments. That’s would be one reason as a taxpayer I would want to see our companies do the right thing. Not only because of human rights perspective but also because our government is engaged with our tax dollars for 70 years. Are we going to prop up a deteriorating status quo, or are we actually trying to solve the issue?”