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November 9, 2021 11:33 am
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Is Bitcoin the ‘Peaceful Protest That Palestinians Need’?

avatar by Akiva Van Koningsveld

Opinion

Ironically, just days earlier, Bitcoin Magazine ran an essay titled “Bitcoin Is the Peaceful Protest That Palestinians Need.”

Written by Suhail Saqan, the heavily slanted piece presented the cryptocurrency as a way for Palestinians to circumvent purported Israeli restrictions on financial systems in the West Bank and Gaza.

Industry experts, such as Dr. Saifedean Ammous, author of global bestseller The Bitcoin Standard, subsequently shared Saqan’s article.

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Yet, not a single paragraph in the October 28 Bitcoin Magazine essay makes reference to how terror groups have avidly adopted digital currencies in Gaza and the West Bank, where, parenthetically, the Palestinian Authority (PA) has warned civilians against using cryptocurrencies.

Hamas’ Crypto Wallet Worth at Least $7.7 Million

In accordance with international treaties and United Nations resolutions, governments worldwide continue to crack down on the financing of terrorism. Consequently, terrorist organizations are constantly exploring novel ways to fund their violence.

As a result, terror groups are increasingly looking to digital currencies.

Over the last three years, virtually all terror organizations in the Gaza Strip — from ruling Hamas to small Salafi groups — have started accepting donations in cryptocurrencies in transactions that are, if even possible, very hard to track and trace.

Experts estimate that as of July 2021, Hamas-linked digital wallets had received at least $7.7 million. Notably, Hamas’ online fundraising efforts have proven significantly more successful than those of Al-Qaeda and ISIS.

In the wake of May’s Hamas-initiated war, the Palestinian terror group raised over $500,000, enough to launch between 650 and 1,500 Qassam rockets at Israeli civilian centers.

As the intergovernmental Financial Action Task Force once noted, “Terrorism continues to threaten societies and citizens around the world. While all these attacks kill, maim, and inspire fear, they cannot occur without money and the means to move funds between terrorist supporters.”

By contrast, Bitcoin Magazine absurdly calls cryptocurrency “the biggest peaceful protest that could happen in Palestine [sic].”

And that is just one of the problems with Saqan’s piece.

The 1994 Paris Protocol on Economic Relations

The article posits, “Bitcoin opens up opportunities for strengthening the Palestinian economy in response to Israel’s abuse of its centralized monetary system.”

According to Saqan, the 1994 Paris Protocol that regulates economic relations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA) “collapsed Palestine’s water, agricultural and private sectors, instead encouraging credit debt among the public, causing a culture of consumerism throughout the society.”

However, the writer fails to present solid data to back up this bold charge, which forms the central tenet of his 3,000-word piece.

In fact, various statistics point to the opposite effect. For example, in the year after signing the Paris Protocol, the PA valued its agricultural sector at $650 million.

Ten years later, it was reportedly worth some $930 million.

While Palestinians face challenges — principally because their leadership refuses to make peace with Israel — the gross domestic product (GDP) of the West Bank and Gaza rose from $2.843 billion in 1994 to $15.561 billion in 2020.

These relevant facts and figures are not mentioned even once by Saqan, who instead, and without evidence, blames the Jewish state for all the economic troubles in areas under Palestinian control.

Indeed, the article portrays Palestinians as victims without any agency, by claiming that Israel “directly or indirectly controls all of Palestinian economic resources,” making “any type of economic growth” impossible.

In attempting to highlight what he calls “Israel’s occupation agenda of controlling all flow of money and resources,” Saqan goes so far as to bluntly accuse Jerusalem of outright stealing. This, by virtue of the Jewish state having enacted laws to combat terror financing in consonance with international conventions.

Saqan writes:

The monetary power that Israel has over Palestine [sic] allows it to exploit its position and issue orders that violate international law. For example, Israel has been demanding that Palestinian banks close the accounts of Palestinians which they have blacklisted. In most places, this is considered theft, but Israel is not being held accountable.”

In reality, though, these Palestinians are not “blacklisted” without reason, as HonestReporting has repeatedly outlined. Rather, their bank accounts were cut off because they were profiting from acts of terrorism against innocent Jews and Israelis, a fact that Saqan conspicuously omits. As a result, readers of Bitcoin Magazine are kept in the dark regarding the Palestinian Authority’s ongoing incentivization of terrorism.

The Palestinian Budget Book states that monthly payments must be made from the “Martyrs Fund” to imprisoned Palestinian terrorists, and to the families of those killed while perpetrating attacks against Israelis, because the recipients constitute a “fighting sector.”

The amount paid increases in proportion to the severity of the crime. In other words, the more Israeli blood spilled, the higher the Palestinian “salary.”

PA President Mahmoud Abbas has repeatedly hailed Ramallah’s “Pay-for-Slay” policy. “Since 1965, we have been paying them [terrorists] and their families. … If we had only 20 to 30 million shekels [$6.4-$9.7 million], which is the monthly sum paid for the families of the martyrs, we would still pay it to them,” Abbas proudly asserted.

Not surprisingly, the PA’s scheme violates Israel’s Anti-Terror Law. Accordingly, banks in PA-administered areas in May closed 35,000 accounts with terrorism connections over the possibility of being sanctioned by Jerusalem.

The PA’s “pay-for-slay” policy, which has been criticized by the US and EU for years, has also been deemed a possible war crime by the International Criminal Court’s chief prosecutor.

Nevertheless, in a display of twisted logic, Bitcoin Magazine accuses Israel of violating international law, while failing to even bring up the Martyrs’ Fund.

As Mayer Amschel Rothschild Never Said…

Whether inadvertently or not, Saqan tries to tie his piece together and make the case for the adoption of cryptocurrency in Palestinian territories by citing a quote with antisemitic undertones:

When a currency such as the shekel is used in Palestine [sic], monetary policy being implemented by Israel will align with the people in power, most likely harming Palestinians. Preventing Palestinians from issuing their own currency is a main factor when it comes to keeping them dependent on Israel. As Mayer Amschel Rothschild once said, “Permit me to issue and control the money of a nation, and I care not who makes its laws.”

The associated hyperlink, directing readers to YourDictionary, makes clear that “no primary source for this [quote] is known and the earliest attribution to [Rothschild] known is 1935” — over a century after his passing.

Indeed, researchers have found no reliable evidence attesting to the authenticity of the saying.

As two journalists in 2013 noted on the Grammarphobia blog, the patriarch of the prominent Jewish banking family most likely never made the statement.

“It’s worth noting, by the way, that many of the Internet repetitions of these quotes appear on antisemitic or ‘global conspiracy’ websites,” the blog adds. The fake quote has been featured on the website of notorious Holocaust denier David Icke, the author of “Was Hitler a Rothschild?”

It makes one wonder why Saqan opted to include it specifically in his piece about the Arab-Israeli conflict.

If Bitcoin was truly the “peaceful protest that Palestinians need,” then why would Saqan’s article conceal crucial information about the use of cryptocurrency by Palestinian terror groups; omit important data on the growth of the Palestinian economy; and misattribute a quote to the scion of a Jewish banking family often cited by antisemites as nefariously manipulating global financial systems?

While a disclaimer states that the “opinions” expressed in guest essays “do not necessarily reflect those of BTC Inc or Bitcoin Magazine,” the publication evidently takes pride in the “quality stories that meet stringent editorial and journalistic standards.”

Indeed, with over 1.5 million followers on social media, the self-proclaimed “oldest and most established source of news, information and expert commentary on Bitcoin” has a duty to get the facts right.

Suhail Saqan’s article clearly does not meet this ethical threshold.

Akiva Van Koningsveld is a writer-researcher for Honest Reporting, a Jerusalem-based media watchdog with a focus on antisemitism and anti-Israel bias — where a version of this article first appeared.

The opinions presented by Algemeiner bloggers are solely theirs and do not represent those of The Algemeiner, its publishers or editors. If you would like to share your views with a blog post on The Algemeiner, please be in touch through our Contact page.

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