How the internet “punishes” Palestinians

(photo: Mauritz Antin / EPA)

PayPal, Google, and Airbnb have all been accused of limiting services to Palestinians in the occupied territories.

By Ylenia Gostoli | Al Jazeera | Feb 2, 2018

PayPal, which operates in 202 countries including war-torn Yemen, doesn’t offer its services to Palestinians in Gaza or the West Bank — while making them available to Israeli settlers living in the same territory and using the same currency.

Google Maps brings [Palestinians] to settler roads, even putting them in danger by taking them to the entrance of a settlement. It’s an apartheid reality that you have streets for settlers only, and Google Maps functions to serve the Israelis and Israeli needs.

As governments across the globe increasingly use the internet to crack down on dissent, manipulate information and control access, the idea of the web as a space of democracy and freedom has all but withered.

In the past two years, Palestinians launched several campaigns accusing tech companies of discrimination and bias, with hashtags such as #FBCensorsPalestine and #PayPalForPalestine going viral.

Multinational tech companies such as Google, Facebook and PayPal have also been accused of complicity in rights violations for controlling how knowledge and services are provided, and who can access them.

Saed Habib, 25, first joined one of the online marketplaces that connects clients with freelancers worldwide five years ago, offering services as a translator and web developer.

Remote work seemed like a golden opportunity in Gaza, where literacy levels are some of the highest in the region but youth unemployment stands at nearly 60 percent, and free movement restrictions prevent people from easily travelling out of the enclave.

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