The Palestinian IT sector and more than 40 Palestinian businesses have signed an open letter to PayPal CEO Dan Schulman, asking him to extend PayPal’s services to Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza.
Without access to PayPal, Palestinian entrepreneurs, non-profits and others face routine difficulties in receiving payments for business and charitable purposes.
PayPal’s absence is problematic for the Palestinian economy overall because IT is one of the only sectors with the potential to grow under status quo conditions of the Israeli occupation. Given that IT products do not have to cross physical borders, they are less impacted by Israel’s severe restrictions on the movement of Palestinian goods and people.
In contrast to Palestinians, Israeli settlers living illegally (per international law and official U.S. policy) in the West Bank are fully integrated into the Israeli financial system and enjoy access to all of PayPal’s services.
In their letter, Palestinian entrepreneurs remind Schulman of his courageous stand in North Carolina and argue that as part of PayPal’s commitment to equality, it must ensure that Palestinians and Israelis living among one another have equal access to its services regardless of religion or ethnicity.
Zahi Khouri, CEO of Palestine’s National Beverage Company and early-stage startup investor through the Ibtikar Fund, said, “All we want is equal access for our talented young people to bring their innovative products and ideas to the world. By extending service to Palestine, PayPal has the opportunity to make a real contribution to alleviating the disastrous unemployment rates in Palestine which are a major source of instability.”
Text of letter to PayPal CEO Dan Schulman:
Dear Mr. Schulman,
We are writing to urge you to extend PayPal’s services to Palestinians living in the West Bank and Gaza thereby removing a major limitation on the Palestinian technology sector, one of the only bright spots in the overall economy. More importantly, extending PayPal services would resolve the current discriminatory situation whereby PayPal’s payment portal can be accessed freely by Israeli settlers living illegally (per international humanitarian law) in the West Bank while it remains unavailable to the occupied Palestinian population.
PayPal’s absence is a major obstacle to the growth of Palestine’s tech sector and the overall economy. While other payment portals are available, there is no replacement for the trust and familiarity that PayPal inspires among potential users, particularly those that are unfamiliar with Palestine-based companies. Without access to PayPal, Palestinian entrepreneurs, nonprofits, and others face routine difficulties in receiving payments for business and charitable purposes.
Moreover, PayPal’s absence is problematic for the overall Palestinian economy as tech is one of the only sectors with the potential to grow under status quo conditions of the Israeli occupation which severely restricts the internal and cross-border movement of goods and people. Indeed, by entering the Palestinian market, PayPal has the opportunity to make a significant contribution toward alleviating the destabilizing unemployment rates of over 25 percent in the West Bank and 40 percent in Gaza.
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.
We believe a company such as PayPal, whose actions in North Carolina reaffirmed its commitment to equal rights, would agree that people living in the same neighborhood ought to have equal rights and access to its services regardless of religion or ethnicity.
We understand that entering a new market can be complex and would be more than happy to work with you, the Palestinian Monetary Authority, and any other necessary officials to pave the way for PayPal’s entry to the Palestinian market.
We very much look forward to hearing from you and working with you to ensure that Palestinian entrepreneurs, nonprofits, and others are free to participate in global commerce.