A group of US Congress members has urged the international online payment services company Paypal to open its services to Palestinians in the occupied territories of West Bank and Gaza, as per multiple reports on Thursday, May 25. The letter addressed to Paypal CEO Dan Schulman claimed that the company was discriminating against Palestinians by banning them from using its services, while allowing illegal Israeli settlers in the West Bank to use their digital payments platform. The letter was sent just days ahead of Paypal’s annual shareholders’ meeting.
As per the letter, Paypal is discriminating against Palestinians by denying “equal access to the digital economy.” It says, “We have significant concerns that, because PayPal does provide services to Israeli citizens in illegal settlements across the West Bank, but does not provide services to Palestinians living in the West Bank and Gaza, PayPal’s current operating status may be infringing upon the rights of Palestinians. Additionally, PayPal’s decision to exclude Palestinians from its services may only exacerbate economic hardship, and therefore political instability, in the West Bank and Gaza.”
The letter is co-authored by representative Mark Pocan, along with the digital rights advocacy group 7amleh (Arab Centre for the Advancement of Social Media). Signatories to the letter include 11 members of the US House of Representatives—Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib, Betty McCollum, Pramily Jayapal, Greg Casar, Earl Blumenauer, Jamaal Bowman, James McGovern, Sara Jacobs, and Cori Bush.
Talking about the letter, Mona Shtaya, advocacy and communications manager at 7amleh, said, “This is… an escalation against the company that deprives Palestinians of their fundamental right to access PayPal’s financial services, which contributes to worsening the economic situation of the Palestinians.” She also noted that “economic de-platforming” by companies like Paypal is leading to difficulties for civil society and human rights groups working in places such as Palestine.
Paypal has in the past said that its services are not operational in the occupied Palestinian territories because the area has been classified as ‘high-risk’. However, Paypal offers services in similar or even higher intensity conflict zones, such as Somalia and Yemen. Several other financial and technological companies with payment systems, such as Visa, Mastercard, Apple Pay, and Swift, operate inside Palestinian territories. This clearly proves that there are other “foreseeable barriers to entry for PayPal,” said 7amleh.