PayPal brushes-off request from Palestinian tech firms to access the platform

PayPal brushes-off request from Palestinian tech firms to access the platform

PayPal brushes-off request from Palestinian tech firms to access the platform

Written by Staff Writer

11 Sep, 2016 | 6:08 am

Some people might be wondering why a hashtag to do with Paypal has been blowing up on twitter in the last two days. The #PayPal4Palestine hashtag has been making waves on social media after 43 companies and organizations in Palestine published an open letter to Paypal asking for the payment platform to work there. The move came only after PayPal ignored their requests for a formal meeting.

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. Israelis and Palestinians also all use the same currency, the Israeli Shekels. But quite how an Internet platform could work in some areas of a country but not in another — where the areas in question are are in some cases literally meters apart — is puzzling to say the least.

The group behind the hashtag and the letter, Americans for a Vibrant Palestinian Economy (A4VPE), ask PayPal CEO Daniel Shulman (pictured) to consider the fact that PayPal operates in 203 countries, many of which could be considered far less stable than Palestine, including Somalia and Yemen. Yemen is currently engaged in a devastating civil war, while Somalia has been war-torn for many years.

“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,” the group writes in the letter (which is reproduced below).

A spokesperson for startup accelerator Gaza Sky Geeks (GSG), one of the signatories to the letter, said: “GSG is a major work hub for startups and freelancers in Gaza — payments are one of the toughest issues for them. After working tirelessly to win business in the global marketplace, they then have to pay steep fees for wire transfers or foreign banks to get paid. PayPal opening here is one of the most immediately impactful moves that could be done to support the economy here. Gazans we work with can’t understand why PayPal serves Israelis living in the West Bank and is open for business in counties like Yemen and Somalia, but not here. Businesses in Gaza and the West Bank just want access to the same opportunities PayPal affords to the other 200 countries and territories they serve.”

TechCrunch contacted PayPal for its response and they sent us this statement: “PayPal’s ambition is for everyone ultimately to have access to our services for digital payments and commerce, in accordance with applicable regulatory requirements. We appreciate the interest that the Palestinian community has shown in PayPal. While we do not have anything to announce for the immediate future, we continuously work to develop strategic partnerships, address business feasibility, regulatory, and compliance needs and requirements, and acquire the necessary local authority permissions for new market entries.”

PayPal has a major operation in Israel in the form of its risk team. Palestine produces roughly 2,000 IT graduates per year. Both the West Bank and Gaza now have a number of technology companies which, ironically, see tech as a way of developing their economy, just as the Israelis do.

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