A group of eleven US Congress members is calling on PayPal to expand its services to Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Currently, the online payment system provides services throughout Israel, including to Israeli settlers residing in illegal settlements in the West Bank. However, Palestinians are unable to access PayPal’s services.
In a letter addressed to PayPal CEO Dan Schulman, the Congress members expressed concerns that the company’s exclusion of Palestinians may infringe upon their rights. The letter, authored by Congressman Mark Pocan in collaboration with The Arab Centre for the Advancement of Social Media (7amleh), highlighted the potential economic hardships faced by Palestinians due to the lack of access to PayPal’s services.
The letter was also signed by Congress members Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib, Betty McCollum, Pramila Jayapal, Greg Casar, Earl Blumenauer, Jamaal Bowman, James McGovern, Sara Jacobs, and Cori Bush.
A recent survey conducted by 7amleh revealed that 80 percent of Palestinian households, spanning various socio-economic groups, would utilize PayPal if given the opportunity. The Palestinian market currently includes other payment services such as Mastercard, Visa, Swift, and Apple Pay, indicating that there are no apparent barriers to PayPal’s entry.
Mona Shtaya, the advocacy and communications manager at 7amleh, criticized PayPal’s exclusion of Palestinians, referring to it as “economic de-platforming.” She emphasized that this practice contributes to the shrinking of spaces for civil society organizations and highlighted the importance of upholding Palestinian digital rights in alignment with global human rights principles.
7amleh launched an official online petition in 2016, which has garnered over 275,000 signatures to date, including notable figures like actor and activist Mark Ruffalo. The organization also established the PayPal4Palestine website, providing an overview of the situation and enabling supporters to send emails to PayPal’s CEO. However, Schulman did not respond to the thousands of emails received, prompting 7amleh to seek support from other stakeholders, such as the US Congress.
The initiative to urge PayPal to extend its services to Palestinians underscores the growing recognition of the importance of inclusive access to financial services and the need to address inequalities in digital rights. The Congress members’ call aligns with efforts to promote equality, justice, and dignity for all individuals globally.