PayPal, the Palestinians, and Problems

There is a campaign, which ironically started in the United States, but which has now spread all over the world, to have PayPal, the internet payment processing company, extend its services to Palestine. No matter what happens, this proposal is fraught with landmines.

PayPal offers its services to over 200 countries, in at least 25 currencies. So its scope is pretty much universal, with the exception of a few areas. There ia a rogue's gallery of countries which are not connected to PayPal, but only a few. Many of those are pretty much totalitarian. The rest are prohibited because of concerns that payments would be either fraudulent or used to fund illegal or terrorist causes.

This reluctance to connect PayPal to Palestine has been a source of major criticism from around the world, especially since PayPal does operate in nearby adjacent Jewish communities. It is preventing a large community of well-educated IT professionals in the contested areas and Gaza from getting employment -- especially needed for those stuck on the wrong side of the security fence, where unemployment is rampant.

The American Group, A4VPE (Americans for a Vibrant Palestinian Economy), has been running a major campaign to bring PayPal to the contested areas. In August of 2016, they sent an open letter to the President of PayPal, Mr. Dan Shulman.

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.

In addition to business reasons, there are also ethical reasons for PayPal to enter the Palestinian market. PayPal’s decision to launch its service in Israel for Israeli bank customers means that it inadvertently made its services freely available to Jewish settlers living illegally in the occupied West Bank. Palestinians living in close proximity to those settlers do not, however, have access as PayPal doesn’t work with Palestinian banks and Palestinians are unable to establish Israeli bank accounts. -- A4VPE

Technically, there is no reason that PayPal could not be extended to the Palestinian areas, if technology were the only concern as Tech Crunch noted:

PayPal currently does not work for Palestinians in the West Bank or Gaza, but does work for Israelis living in settlements in the West Bank, which are illegal by international law… [H]ow an Internet platform could work in some areas of a country but not in another -- where the areas in question are in some cases literally meters apart -- is puzzling to say the least. -- Tech Crunch (emphasis mine)

The criticism has gone international.

PayPal is battling a growing chorus of opposition to its refusal to serve customers in the Palestinian territories, as British politicians join a US campaign group and hundreds of Palestinian nationals in calling for the payments service to lift its Palestinian blackout. -- VICE

This issue is not being ignored in Europe, where it will gather a more sympathetic ear than in the United States.

That this House notes with concern and surprise that the worldwide online payment system, PayPal, is not available to use for Palestinians living in the West Bank and Gaza, despite it being available to users in Israel and Israeli settlers living in the occupied West Bank -- British Parliament Website

PayPal, eBay, Amazon: les Palestiniens protestent contre la discrimination – Le Voix du Monde French Public Radio

Anyone in their right mind can see what is going on. Despite official obfuscations, and polite excuses, PayPal is merely dodging a bullet. Were PayPal to connect its services to the contested areas, the ability to wire in funds to armed groups would open up.

Given the state of U.S. law, particularly Holder vs. Humaniatrian Law -- a law so expansive that even Rudolf Giuliani criticized its reach -- and given the determination of groups such as the Israel Law Center to sue over any financial connection to any questionable arena in the Mideast -- any American company would be insane to open up financial opportunities to the Palestinians, even legitimate ones.

TEL-AVIV BASED CIVIL RIGHTS CENTER FILES LIEN AGAINST BOEING
"American companies like Boeing should not be profiting from business opportunities with Iran while billions of dollars in federal court judgments for Iranian terror victims remain unpaid." -- Israel Law Center

Anything that impacts on Israeli security, even indirectly, will be subjected to unremitting lawsuit. There is some evidence that the Israel Law Center may be a proxy for the Israeli government, though it claims to be independent.

Leitner said that in many of her cases she receives evidence from GOI [Government of Israel] officials, and added that in its early years ILC took direction from the GOI on which cases to pursue.  -- Wikileaks

So one can understand PayPal's reluctance. Connecting PayPal to Palestine would open up a hornet's nest of lawfare litigation. Facebook was sued by the Israel Law Center for not policing its own free speech platform.  PayPal, which transacts with money, would be in a worse position.

Compounding the problem is the increasingly large number of IT professionals being educated in Gaza, who would love to do freelance work over the internet, if they could get paid. One of the few ways to make decent money under blockade.

[T]he local [Gazan] business community has confronted a rare conundrum: how to harness an unusually well-educated labour force in an economy that is almost entirely shut off from the outside world.

But for most workers, the biggest issue is how to get paid. 

[B]anks often err on the side of caution by blocking suspicious transactions to Gaza, fearing penalties...

-- Middle East Eye

Finally, it has come out that PayPal employs a large amount of IDF vets, who probably would balk at connecting Palestine.

PayPal employees in Tel Aviv, mostly veterans of the army intelligence corps, team up with algorithms to decide whether your transaction should go through. -- Haaretz

None of this would trouble most people here at American Thinker, but it is causing a bit of an internet brouhaha. So, it would seem there is absolutely no chance, for whatever reason, that PayPal will connect to Palestine. This will dampen terrorist funding for a while, even if it leaves an unusually large community of well-educated IT professionals unemployed.

Except that Bitcoin is now entering in to the picture.

The absence of PayPal and other financial networks in such regions opens a large demanding market for Bitcoin. -- LiveBitcoinNews

With No Currency of Their Own, Palestinians Eye 'Bitcoin' as Alternative to Israeli Cash -- Haaretz

With a large amount of unemployed IT professionals in Gaza and the contested areas, setting up a Bitcoin, or similar exchange, should be easy; and it may happen sooner than expected. This would be a nightmare for Israeli security, unless they shut down the internet in the territories altogether, which would cause a firestorm of protests that would not go away.

A jihadist Telegram channel forwarded the “Jahizuna” (Equip Us) fundraising campaign to purchase weapons and arm jihadists in Palestine by using Bitcoin, and included weapon costs and impacts. -- Site Intel Group

PayPal, which does some tracking, may the least detestable alternative, yet I doubt PayPal would move, as they would be laid open to lawsuit.

It looks like Bitcoin will move in. Expect the worst.

Mike Konrad is the pen name of an American who wishes he had availed himself more fully of the opportunity to learn Spanish in high school, lo those many decades ago.  He writes on the Arabs of South America at http://latinarabia.com.

There is a campaign, which ironically started in the United States, but which has now spread all over the world, to have PayPal, the internet payment processing company, extend its services to Palestine. No matter what happens, this proposal is fraught with landmines.

PayPal offers its services to over 200 countries, in at least 25 currencies. So its scope is pretty much universal, with the exception of a few areas. There ia a rogue's gallery of countries which are not connected to PayPal, but only a few. Many of those are pretty much totalitarian. The rest are prohibited because of concerns that payments would be either fraudulent or used to fund illegal or terrorist causes.

This reluctance to connect PayPal to Palestine has been a source of major criticism from around the world, especially since PayPal does operate in nearby adjacent Jewish communities. It is preventing a large community of well-educated IT professionals in the contested areas and Gaza from getting employment -- especially needed for those stuck on the wrong side of the security fence, where unemployment is rampant.

The American Group, A4VPE (Americans for a Vibrant Palestinian Economy), has been running a major campaign to bring PayPal to the contested areas. In August of 2016, they sent an open letter to the President of PayPal, Mr. Dan Shulman.

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.

In addition to business reasons, there are also ethical reasons for PayPal to enter the Palestinian market. PayPal’s decision to launch its service in Israel for Israeli bank customers means that it inadvertently made its services freely available to Jewish settlers living illegally in the occupied West Bank. Palestinians living in close proximity to those settlers do not, however, have access as PayPal doesn’t work with Palestinian banks and Palestinians are unable to establish Israeli bank accounts. -- A4VPE

Technically, there is no reason that PayPal could not be extended to the Palestinian areas, if technology were the only concern as Tech Crunch noted:

PayPal currently does not work for Palestinians in the West Bank or Gaza, but does work for Israelis living in settlements in the West Bank, which are illegal by international law… [H]ow an Internet platform could work in some areas of a country but not in another -- where the areas in question are in some cases literally meters apart -- is puzzling to say the least. -- Tech Crunch (emphasis mine)

The criticism has gone international.

PayPal is battling a growing chorus of opposition to its refusal to serve customers in the Palestinian territories, as British politicians join a US campaign group and hundreds of Palestinian nationals in calling for the payments service to lift its Palestinian blackout. -- VICE

This issue is not being ignored in Europe, where it will gather a more sympathetic ear than in the United States.

That this House notes with concern and surprise that the worldwide online payment system, PayPal, is not available to use for Palestinians living in the West Bank and Gaza, despite it being available to users in Israel and Israeli settlers living in the occupied West Bank -- British Parliament Website

PayPal, eBay, Amazon: les Palestiniens protestent contre la discrimination – Le Voix du Monde French Public Radio

Anyone in their right mind can see what is going on. Despite official obfuscations, and polite excuses, PayPal is merely dodging a bullet. Were PayPal to connect its services to the contested areas, the ability to wire in funds to armed groups would open up.

Given the state of U.S. law, particularly Holder vs. Humaniatrian Law -- a law so expansive that even Rudolf Giuliani criticized its reach -- and given the determination of groups such as the Israel Law Center to sue over any financial connection to any questionable arena in the Mideast -- any American company would be insane to open up financial opportunities to the Palestinians, even legitimate ones.

TEL-AVIV BASED CIVIL RIGHTS CENTER FILES LIEN AGAINST BOEING
"American companies like Boeing should not be profiting from business opportunities with Iran while billions of dollars in federal court judgments for Iranian terror victims remain unpaid." -- Israel Law Center

Anything that impacts on Israeli security, even indirectly, will be subjected to unremitting lawsuit. There is some evidence that the Israel Law Center may be a proxy for the Israeli government, though it claims to be independent.

Leitner said that in many of her cases she receives evidence from GOI [Government of Israel] officials, and added that in its early years ILC took direction from the GOI on which cases to pursue.  -- Wikileaks

So one can understand PayPal's reluctance. Connecting PayPal to Palestine would open up a hornet's nest of lawfare litigation. Facebook was sued by the Israel Law Center for not policing its own free speech platform.  PayPal, which transacts with money, would be in a worse position.

Compounding the problem is the increasingly large number of IT professionals being educated in Gaza, who would love to do freelance work over the internet, if they could get paid. One of the few ways to make decent money under blockade.

[T]he local [Gazan] business community has confronted a rare conundrum: how to harness an unusually well-educated labour force in an economy that is almost entirely shut off from the outside world.

But for most workers, the biggest issue is how to get paid. 

[B]anks often err on the side of caution by blocking suspicious transactions to Gaza, fearing penalties...

-- Middle East Eye

Finally, it has come out that PayPal employs a large amount of IDF vets, who probably would balk at connecting Palestine.

PayPal employees in Tel Aviv, mostly veterans of the army intelligence corps, team up with algorithms to decide whether your transaction should go through. -- Haaretz

None of this would trouble most people here at American Thinker, but it is causing a bit of an internet brouhaha. So, it would seem there is absolutely no chance, for whatever reason, that PayPal will connect to Palestine. This will dampen terrorist funding for a while, even if it leaves an unusually large community of well-educated IT professionals unemployed.

Except that Bitcoin is now entering in to the picture.

The absence of PayPal and other financial networks in such regions opens a large demanding market for Bitcoin. -- LiveBitcoinNews

With No Currency of Their Own, Palestinians Eye 'Bitcoin' as Alternative to Israeli Cash -- Haaretz

With a large amount of unemployed IT professionals in Gaza and the contested areas, setting up a Bitcoin, or similar exchange, should be easy; and it may happen sooner than expected. This would be a nightmare for Israeli security, unless they shut down the internet in the territories altogether, which would cause a firestorm of protests that would not go away.

A jihadist Telegram channel forwarded the “Jahizuna” (Equip Us) fundraising campaign to purchase weapons and arm jihadists in Palestine by using Bitcoin, and included weapon costs and impacts. -- Site Intel Group

PayPal, which does some tracking, may the least detestable alternative, yet I doubt PayPal would move, as they would be laid open to lawsuit.

It looks like Bitcoin will move in. Expect the worst.

Mike Konrad is the pen name of an American who wishes he had availed himself more fully of the opportunity to learn Spanish in high school, lo those many decades ago.  He writes on the Arabs of South America at http://latinarabia.com.

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