Category Archives: Gaza

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Hamas Bid for Bitcoin Donations Struggles to Get Off Ground

Hamas Bid for Bitcoin Donations Struggles to Get Off Ground

The fundamentalist Palestinian organization Hamas is to continue its call for cryptocurrency donations which has only resulted in a meager few thousand dollars since its call for funding two months ago.

Hamas, the de-facto ruling authority of the Gaza Strip in Palestine, is regarded by several countries, including the US and the EU, as a terrorist organization. Russia, Turkey, and China are among those major world powers who do not subscribe to the definition.

The original Hamas request for Bitcoin funds in February was made as a result of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s decision to freeze millions of dollars in Qatari aid – including USD 15 million a month to pay the salaries of Hamas civil servants. Gazan journalist and lecturer Hussam Al-Dajany has reiterated the need for support in another call for funding this week but this time claiming this “just Palestinian cause… can indirectly participate in the liberation of the Al Aqsa Mosque”.

Former CIA analyst Yaya Fanusie has suggested that Hamas has made some progress in setting up its donations project despite having struggled to raise the funds it needs and says that the Hamas website is currently “generating unique (bitcoin) addresses for each site visitor”. He adds:

“This method will make it harder for authorities to identify and track donations, and shows that Hamas is more careful about cryptocurrency operational security.”

Despite these moves, Hamas has numerous hurdles to overcome in raising cryptocurrency funding. Coinbase and other major exchanges have been put on alert to ensure that known Hamas addresses are not used for transactions, although this in itself won’t be simple as fresh addresses are likely to be created by Hamas to confuse the exchanges.

Bitcoin does have traceability issues though, which is certain to make the Hamas call for funds challenging. The creation of a unique address on the Hamas website will shield the recipient, but won’t anonymize the sender. This is sure to make potential donors wary, as it appears to have done so far.

 

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Israeli Civil Rights NGO Wants Coinbase to Close Hamas Account

Israeli Civil Rights NGO Wants Coinbase to Close Hamas Account

An Israeli civil rights NGO has threated to take Coinbase to court over a Hamas cryptocurrency account.

The official Telegram channel of Abu Obeida, a spokesman for Hamas’ Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, made the appeal for Bitcoin asking all the “supporters of our righteous cause to support the resistance financially using Bitcoin”.

Shurat Hadin-Israel Law Center is suggesting that Hamas has set up a Coinbase account for this purpose and as such, donations to Hamas would be a violation of US federal law under the 1995 Counter-Terrorism Act. They stated in a letter to the US exchange giant:

“It has recently come to our attention that the notorious Palestinian terrorist group Hamas currently maintains an account with Coinbase, Inc. (“Coinbase”), through which it is accepting donations.”

It added that Coinbase should immediately terminate all Hamas accounts.

Bitcoin users would be quick to point out that Hamas would be free to use its own open source Bitcoin client as a wallet, should its Coinbase account be closed. As a decentralized and censorship-resistant currency, efforts to block or sanction it would be quite futile, as proven by the much-mocked attempts by the US government last November to sanction Bitcoin addresses.

The territories of Gaza and the West Bank are separated from each other by Israeli territory. Both fell under the jurisdiction of the Palestinian Authority but Gaza has since June 2007 been governed by Hamas since 2006.

There are reportedly now 20 unaccredited exchanges helping local cryptocurrency users to get their money abroad to make investments that otherwise they would have no chance of making in the region. In Gaza, a provider of Bitcoin to Palestinians recently maintained that his clients view Bitcoin as “cheaper, safer, and quicker”, maintaining that “nothing works with Palestinian banks” and that “Bitcoin wallets are alternative banks”.

Late last year the US online payment service PayPal closed the account of the Germany-based NGO International Alliance – an organization that sympathizes with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine terrorist organization and supports boycotting Israel, with PayPal simply stating that “This recipient is currently unable to receive money”.

 

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Hamas Calls for Bitcoin to Combat Israeli Freeze of Millions of Dollars in Qatari Aid

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The militant arm of Hamas in Gaza has made an appeal for Bitcoin funds after a decision by Israel to temporarily freeze millions of dollars in Qatari aid to Palestine.

Hamas, the de-facto ruling authority of the Gaza Strip in Palestine is regarded by several countries, including the US and the EU, as a terrorist organization. Russia, Turkey, and China are among those major world powers who do not subscribe to the definition.

The official Telegram channel of Abu Obeida, a spokesman for Hamas’ Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, made the appeal for Bitcoin asking all lovers of the resistance and the supporters of our righteous cause to support the resistance financially using Bitcoin.

Hamas has been the voice of Gaza since taking power from the Palestinian Nationalist political party Fatah in 2007 after a military conflict, although the Gaza Strip is now blockaded by both Israel and Egypt. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s decision to freeze millions of dollars in Qatari aid – including USD 15 million a month to pay the salaries of Hamas civil servants – has heightened the current tension between Gaza and Israel. Abu Obeida’s latest message hinted at the request for funds:

“The Zionist enemy is fighting the resistance by trying to cut its support by all means, but the resistance lovers in all the world are fighting these Zionist attempts and are seeking to find all possible support for the resistance.”

A recent congressional hearing in the US confirmed that in general, fiat currencies are the preferred choice of funding for terrorist activities or arms and that the success of fundraising for such groups through cryptocurrencies has been limited.

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Bitcoin Eases Cross-Border Transactions for Palestinians in Gaza

Bitcoin is currently serving an important role in Gaza to help investors gain access to markets abroad and send money overseas.

Currently, Palestinians are unable to get their Israeli shekels or other currencies used in the area, such US dollars or Jordanian dinars, to online exchanges as they don’t work with local banks. This has given rise to many unofficial exchanges around the city.

The territories of Gaza and the West Bank are separated from each other by Israeli territory. Both fell under the jurisdiction of the Palestinian Authority but Gaza has since June 2007 been governed by Hamas, a Palestinian Islamic organization which came to power in free elections in 2006. It has been placed under an Israeli and US-led international economic and political boycott from that time onwards.

There are reportedly now 20 unaccredited exchanges helping local cryptocurrency users to get their money abroad to make investments that otherwise they would have no chance of making in the region. In Gaza, Mohammed runs his own unofficial crypto exchange and suggests that over the course of four years, he’s enabled up to 50 Palestinian families to buy an average of USD 500 worth of Bitcoin a month to use abroad or shop online. He maintains that his clients view Bitcoin as “cheaper, safer, and quicker”, maintaining that “nothing works with Palestinian banks” and that “Bitcoin wallets are alternative banks”.

Palestinians have adopted peer-to-peer payments are seen as another way of getting around local restrictions. Palestinians are under enormous pressure in Gaza and, due to Israel’s world status, international pressure often means that those sending money from the West have been known to have their accounts closed.

Laith Kassis, CEO of Techno Park on the West Bank, illustrated the problem for many wishing to get money overseas: “There is no payment gateway, like PayPal, for entrepreneurs to receive payments internationally… So here come solutions on blockchain with private nodes.”

The lack of power is another local issue that Palestinians struggle with as frequent outages equates to no access to the internet, making any kind of transfer of funds next to impossible.

However, Bitcoin enthusiast and professor of economics at the Lebanese American University, Saifdean Ammous doesn’t see Bitcoin or crypto in general as a solution to the failing Palestinian economy. He argues:

“If the people who want to do the transaction don’t both have balances in Bitcoin then you’re just adding extra layers of conversion from their home currency to Bitcoin and back to the home currency… That’s never going to be a sustainable solution.”

The World Bank estimates that 20% of Palestinians live below the poverty line of less than USD 5.50 a day. In this volatile highly-controlled environment, cash is the most highly sought-after payment for day-to-day necessities.

 

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