US lawmakers urge PayPal to end ‘discriminatory’ ban on Palestinians in Occupied Territories

US lawmakers urge PayPal to end ‘discriminatory’ ban on Palestinians in Occupied Territories
PayPal President and CEO Dan Schulman speaks during an event at Terra Gallery in San Francisco, California, May 21, 2015. (Reuters)
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Updated 25 May 2023

US lawmakers urge PayPal to end ‘discriminatory’ ban on Palestinians in Occupied Territories

US lawmakers urge PayPal to end ‘discriminatory’ ban on Palestinians in Occupied Territories
  • 11 members of Congress write to CEO ahead of shareholder meeting over company’s double standards
  • Israeli settlers permitted to use PayPal services in affected areas

LONDON: Eleven members of the US Congress have written to PayPal telling the digital payment platform to end its ban on Palestinians using its services in the Occupied Territories. 

PayPal, the letter said, is denying “equal access to the digital economy” by doing so, while placing no restrictions on its use by Israeli settlers.

The letter, addressed to CEO Dan Schulman ahead PayPal’s annual shareholder meeting on May 24, said: “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.

“As one of the world’s most recognized payment platforms, PayPal has a responsibility to ensure its services and operations are provided in a non-discriminatory manner.”

The letter is signed by Mark Pocan, Earl Blumenauer, Betty McCollum, Rashida Tlaib and Greg Casar, among others.

PayPal has previously said its ban is due to the Occupied Territories being a “high risk” environment.

But as well as extending services to Israeli settlers in the Occupied Territories, PayPal currently operates in war zones including Somalia and Yemen. 

Harrington Investments, an investment firm that previously pushed divestment from apartheid South Africa, proposed a motion at the meeting for PayPal to “establish a policy that ensures that people in conflict zones, such as in Palestine, do not suffer discriminatory exclusion from the company’s financial services,” or “provide an evaluation of the economic impact the policy of exclusion has on the affected populations as well as the company’s finances, operations and reputation.”

Sam Bahour, a Palestinian-American businessman, told shareholders that his companies cannot use PayPal despite having worked with the US and UK governments, as well as across Europe.

“Palestine has a thriving banking sector and all Palestinian banks have corresponding US banks that make money transfers daily. The US Treasury Department is also active in Palestine and has praised the level of Palestinian banking compliance,” a transcript of his planned remarks seen by The Guardian said.

PayPal partnered with the pro-Israel Anti-Defamation League in 2021 to investigate “hate group funding.”

The ADL has been criticized by human rights groups for conflating support for Palestinian human rights with antisemitism.