Rights groups launch initiative demanding PayPal services in Palestine

While PayPal operates in over 200 countries, including many affected by years of war and civil conflict, it does not provide services in Palestine. Rights groups have condemned this discriminatory policy against Palestinians as residents of the illegal Israeli settlements in the same area have access to PayPal services

October 11, 2021 by Peoples Dispatch
PayPal in Palestine
A demonstration calling on PayPal to offer its services to Palestinians in the Occupied West Bank and the Gaza strip. (Photo: Jewish Voice for Peace)

A group of Palestinian and international human rights groups have once again demanded that global digital payments company PayPal start providing its services to Palestinians in the occupied Palestinians territories of West Bank, East Jerusalem, and the blockaded Gaza strip. Renewing the campaign called “#PayPal4Palestine initiative, a web seminar was held on Thursday, October 7, which saw the participation of Palestinians from the business and entrepreneurial community who have faced difficulties in conducting business due to the unavailability of PayPal services in Palestine. The event was hosted by Haifa-based digital rights group, 7amleh. The group has also started a website which helps users to send a letter to Paypal executives and sign a global petition asking them to end their discriminatory policy against Palestinians. 

Executive director and co-founder of 7amleh, Nadim Nashif, was quoted by Al Jazeera as saying, “Palestinians should have a right to use the platform. The platform should not have a right to bar Palestinians from using it. Access to platforms, information and the internet more generally are part of digital human rights.” 

The group added that “PayPal’s policy not to provide services in Palestine appears to be discriminatory on the basis of their national or ethnic origin rather than location.”

Earlier this week, 7amleh was joined by 55 other human rights organizations such as Al-Haq, US Campaign for Palestinian Rights, Palestine Institute for Public Diplomacy, Palestine Solidarity Campaign, Jewish Voice for Peace, and Gaza Sky Geeks, among others, in sending an open letter to PayPal’s Chief Executive Officer (CEO) asking the company to allow Palestinians to use their services. In the letter, the groups “call on PayPal to adhere to international law, and PayPal’s own ethical values and standards, and bring to an end discrimination against Palestinians in the oPt [occupied Palestinian territories] by making its services immediately accessible.”

The groups said, “our research has shown that access to PayPal would improve the lives of over 80 percent of Palestinian households, generate employment opportunities for over 42,000 annual college graduates, accelerate the growth of hundreds of small businesses and startups, and facilitate the work of numerous civil society organizations that rely on crowd-funding.” The letter also criticized the company for its double standards as it continues to allow illegal Israeli settlers in the occupied West Bank to use its services, while Palestinians in the same exact geographical location cannot access them. The letter added that this amounts to “contributing to human rights violations, such as upholding the Israeli occupation and contributing to de-development of the Palestinian economy.”

The letter also noted the importance of digital payment platforms for Palestinians living under Israeli occupation to be able to easily engage in business with regional and international customers and earn their livelihoods. It said, “as a population living under prolonged military occupation, Palestinians face extreme restrictions on imports, exports, and movement as a result of Israel’s discriminatory laws, policies and practices in the West Bank and more severely so in the Gaza Strip. Palestinians rely on digital accessibility for economic development and access to the global economy.”

It further stressed that as PayPal is one of the biggest and most used digital payment platforms in the world, with operations in over 200 countries, allowing Palestinians to use their services would have a major positive effect for bringing down the unusually high unemployment rates in Palestine. It will also ensure that Paypal is not responsible for “adverse human rights impact” in Palestine, as per the guidelines laid down by the UN’s Working Group on Business and Human Rights.