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#PayPal4Palestine: Blocked Access Hinders Development in West Bank and Gaza

21 May, 2017
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PayPal, a worldwide online payment service, has made business transactions a whole lot easier. With just a click of a button, you can send and receive money from anywhere in the world. Well, technically that's not true.

The Palestinian territories of the West Bank and Gaza Strip still don’t have access to the online payment service. To the contrary, Israelis and Israeli settlers living in Palestinian areas face no roadblocks in accessing PayPal, which operates in 203 countries around the world.

The “PayPal for Palestine” campaign has been demanding access for Palestinians for over a year, but the hashtag #PayPal4Palestine has recently started making new waves on Twitter and other social networking platforms.

“It's not fair for any freelancer or entrepreneur to keep suffering because we don't have online payment gateways,” said Palestinian entrepreneur and social media coordinator for Gaza Sky Geeks, Gaza’s first and only start-up accelerator, Dalia Shurrab on Twitter. In another Tweet, Shurrab explained that she waited three months to get paid for work she had done for a start-up in Saudi Arabia because she did not have access to PayPal.

“All we want is access to grow jobs and [our] economy #PayPal4Palestine,” tweeted the official Palestinian Telecommunications Company PalTel.

Those supporting the campaign argue that not having access to PayPal slows down business and entrepreneurial activities for Palestinians, and thus development. In its defense, PayPal has reportedly said that the West Bank and Gaza Strip do not meet the service’s regulatory requirements, even though Israeli settlers living in the territories are allowed to access the service. Israeli settlers are allowed to sign up for PayPal using their Israeli bank accounts, whereas Palestinian bank accounts are not recognized by the company.

When the campaign first started gaining ground in 2016, it saw a number of pro-Palestinian organizations, like Americans for a Vibrant Palestinian Economy (A4VPE), championing the cause, and even British parliamentarians chimed in, saying that “the situation is a significant obstacle to many Palestinian individuals and businesses, who are unable to use this trusted and reliable global service for conducting monetary transactions”.

The campaign isn’t just making pushes online. A rally sponsored by Jewish Voices for Peace was held at the PayPal headquarters in San Jose, California on May 16 to deliver a petition in support of Palestinians gaining access to PayPal. Their petition was delivered with over 175,000 signatures.

“PayPal is violating international law by operating in illegal settlements. Denying access to Palestinians in the same areas is blatant discrimination,” explained Jewish Voices for Peace. “PayPal has an opportunity to make their lives at least a bit easier. The Palestinian tech sector is one of the few industries that can grow under Israel’s occupation, but it needs PayPal to be competitive.”

Without access to PayPal, Palestinians are forced to use backchannels to make financial transactions, which often creates a slowed down process for businesses trying to expand.

In related news, the Palestine Monetary Authority recently told Reuters that it is planning to launch its own digital currency—the Palestinian pound—in the next five years, with the goal of warding off Israeli interference. Because there is no Palestinian currency, Palestinians living in the West Bank and Gaza Strip rely on US dollars, the Jordanian dinar and Israeli shekels.

Tags PayPal Palestine West Bank Gaza Israel Development

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