By Andrew Tillett
But PayPal denies the decision is politically motivated, maintaining it was working on overcoming regulatory and compliance hurdles.
APAN’s move comes amid renewed attention on the Israel-Palestine conflict and the use of sanctions aimed against Israel, highlighted by New Zealand singer Lorde cancelling a concert in Tel Aviv after an online campaign by Palestinian supporters.
In Lorde’s case, a rabbi took out a full-page advertisement in The Washington Post newspaper on the weekend denouncing the Grammy-winning singer as a bigot.
In Australia, the most high-profile target of the BDS movement has been chocolate shop chain Max Brenner but PayPal has increasingly come on the radar of activists, including international anti-poverty group ActionAid by holding a rally outside its Sydney office last month.
APAN, which is the peak political lobbying group on behalf of Palestinians, said PayPal could be accessed by people living within the borders of pre-1967 Israel but not to Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza, territories captured in the Six Day War, even though they used the same currency, the Israeli shekel.
‘Online apartheid’ claim
To emphasise the discrimination, APAN said people living in Jewish communities living in settlements in the West Bank – which remain a key source of controversy – could access PayPal while those in neighbouring Palestinian villages could not. PayPal can be accessed in other Arab nations including wartorn Yemen.
“If my family in Nablus wish to support a charity, they can’t use PayPal. If my friends in Bethlehem want to run business selling their home-made souvenirs, they can’t use PayPal,” APAN Treasurer Nasser Mashni said.
“But if someone wants to donate money to an illegal settlement in the West Bank of Israel, then they can use PayPal. This is an online apartheid and we can no longer support it.”
Mr Mashni said APAN was closing its PayPal account – which was more than a symbolic step because 90 per cent of its donations flowed through the service – and would email thousands of its supporters encouraging them to use alternative online payment services.
PayPal Australia was asked for a response, and referred The Australian Financial Review to comments made by its US chief executive Dan Schulman at its annual general meeting last year, who said the company appreciated the “outreach and interest” from groups working to bring PayPal services to Palestine.
“The status of our service for Palestinians in the Palestinian Territories or anywhere else is not politically motivated,” Mr Schulman told shareholders.
“PayPal’s ambition is for everyone to have access to our services for digital payments and commerce, in accordance with applicable regulatory requirements.
“We are in an ongoing dialogue with advocates and key stakeholders on this important issue because we ultimately hope to be able to address the risk, compliance, regulatory and resource allocation issues to properly serve customers in the region and other nations where PayPal is not yet present.
“Addressing these matters takes time, but they are critical to our business and necessary to achieving the high service and regulatory standards we hold ourselves to in every market where we operate.”