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#PayPal4Palestine

Image of a demonstration calling on PayPal to offer its services to Palestinians in the Occupied West Bank and the Gaza Strip [Jewish Voice for Peace]
A demonstration calling on PayPal to offer its services to Palestinians in the Occupied West Bank and the Gaza Strip [Jewish Voice for Peace]

A massive campaign has been making the rounds on social media calling on the global online payments system PayPal to offer its services to Palestinians in the Occupied West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

To work around the physical barriers and trade restrictions imposed as a result of the occupation and the Israeli siege on Gaza, Palestinians in the occupied territories have turned to the internet and entrepreneurial ventures as a means of conducting business and making a living.

Palestine’s growing tech sector, however, is placed at a significant disadvantage by having no access to PayPal.

The backlash against PayPal comes because, while PayPal currently does not work for Palestinians in the West Bank or Gaza, it does work for Israelis living in Israeli settlements in the West Bank which are deemed illegal under international law.

PayPal also operates in 203 countries, including countries riddled with war and corruption and considered far less stable than Palestine, such as war-torn Yemen and Somalia, where warring factions having been running amok for years.

A twitter storm took place on Tuesday using the hashtag #PayPal4Palestine demanding that the firm allows Palestinians living in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip to open accounts and be able to use the service.

Palestine produces roughly 2,000 IT graduates per year. Dalia Shurrab, a Palestinian entrepreneur and social media coordinator at Gaza’s only start-up accelerator Gaza Sky Geeks, was among those who shared their concerns over not having access to an online payment gateway such as PayPal.

The hashtag #PayPal4Palestine first made waves on social media in September last year, when some 43 companies and organisations in Palestine published an open letter to PayPal asking CEO Daniel Shulman for the payment platform to work there. This came after PayPal ignored their requests for a formal meeting.

Some 40 British MPs then signed a motion demanding the global payments service stop singling out Palestinians but, since then, nothing has changed for Palestine.

A petition sponsored by international campaigning organisation SumOfUs and supported by Jewish Voice for Peace and US Campaign for Palestinian Rights has now garnered more than 180,000 signatures.

Activists from the human rights organisations gathered outside PayPal’s headquarters in San José, California, on Tuesday to deliver the petition and tell PayPal to “do the right thing”.

“I can tell you guys we are assessing the business opportunities there, and it is something that we’re looking at,” a PayPal representative told the activists.

As you guys well know, it is a complex issue from a compliance and regulatory standpoint, but that’s not to say that we’re not serious about our business and democratising the financial services for the people all around the world, not just Palestine.

Given the lack of commitment to tackling the issue, activists promised more actions to come.

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