Paypal: stop ignoring Palestinians now [Opinion]

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Paypal, despite its own corporate values of inclusion and equality, is discriminating against Palestinians.

A few months ago Paypal CEO Dan Schulman made headlines in the US for rescinding their decision to open a new global operations center in North Carolina, as a result of the state’s enactment of discriminatory legislation.

“This decision reflects Paypal’s deepest values and our strong belief that every person has the right to be treated equally, and with dignity and respect. These principles of fairness, inclusion and equality are at the heart of everything we seek to achieve and stand for as a company. And they compel us to take action to oppose discrimination,” Schulman said in a statement.

Simultaneously to this announcement, Paypal also reconfirmed their decision to continue to discriminate against another people—Palestinians.

Ignoring our calls

Paypal has repeatedly brushed off calls from business leaders, entrepreneurs and developers to serve the Palestine market with unlikely excuses, saying Palestine is too small or that its financial systems are not ready.  

Yet, through simple research for this piece, a quick look at a United Nations report on GDP showed that Paypal works in 73 out of 82 countries with lower GDPs than Palestine’s, which hints at the fact that their decision is not about market size.

And, while Paypal argues that Palestine’s financial systems are not ready to handle online payments, US government-funded programs have closely worked with the Palestinian government to ensure that the monetary authority and banking systems are on par with international standards, including when it comes to money laundering.

Given Paypal’s lack of acknowledgement, a group of Palestinian businesses, startups and civil society organizations have made the issue public through an open letter published on August 24 calling on Schulman to respond to their numerous requests to implement Paypal in Palestine. They also offer their support to facilitate Paypal’s entry to Palestine.

Why do we need Paypal?

Paypal’s absence is problematic for the overall Palestinian economy, as ICT remains the only sector with the potential to grow under the status quo conditions imposed by the Israeli occupation. Simply, given that web- and mobile-based products do not require physical inputs or have to cross physical borders, they are less impacted by Israel’s severe restrictions on the movement.  

Palestinians’ economic development is already hindered enough without global companies like Paypal taking such a stance.

Yet, without access to Paypal, Palestinian entrepreneurs, nonprofits, and others face routine difficulties in receiving payments for business and charitable purposes.

Paypal remains the most used online payments platform and the inability to provide this payment option hinders the success of our most promising Palestinian tech companies, as they expand regionally and globally.

Paypal’s discrimination

In the lead-up to this campaign, Paypal began to allow Palestinian credit card holders to open accounts. However, they must do so by registering as Israeli residents (an obviously problematic issue for many), and they are not able to use their Palestinian bank accounts to receive money - a critical issue for a business client.

As Paypal refuses to offer its services to Palestinians, Jewish settlers living in illegal West Bank settlements can use the service with no problems. In an area of just 5,655 square kilometers, Jews and Arabs live under discriminatory legal systems, which even demonstrates itself through the availability of the ubiquitous payment platform. This situation counters Paypal’s principle that “everyone deserves to live without fear of discrimination simply for being who they are”.

It should also not go unnoted that Paypal’s risk assessment is managed from its Tel Aviv development center (opened after its 2008 acquisition of Israeli startup Fraud Science). The center is manned by “mostly veterans of the Israel Defense Forces’ intelligence corps” touted as “natural candidates” for this type of job, according to news outlet Haaretz.

Therefore, the majority of those who determine whether Palestinian clients and transactions are “risky” are the same men and women that once held them directly under their military control.

The Internet promises a global economy where traditional boundaries and barriers can be crossed. In such a world, Palestinian businesses should be able to serve clients throughout the world from their offices within Palestine.

By continuously ignoring calls to assess their entry to Palestine in an unbiased manner, Paypal is complicit in the continuous discrimination of Palestinians and the stifling of their economic development.

[Feature image via Paypal]

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