EXCLUSIVE — PayPal closed a Gaza fundraising account benefiting an Israeli-designated terrorist organization after facing pressure from a legal watchdog group, while the credit card processor Stripe launched an internal investigation into the same campaign, the Washington Examiner has learned.
The Union of Agricultural Work Committees, which Israel declared to be a terrorist group in 2021 for its long-held ties to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, a United States-designated terrorist group, is partnered with the Spanish Bizilur Association for Cooperation and Development of Peoples on a “#StopGazaStarvation Gaza Relief Campaign,” according to archived records. However, following the pro-Israel think tank Zachor Legal Institute warning PayPal in a Wednesday letter that it could have been unlawfully “aiding and abetting” terrorism, the company quietly shut down Bizilur’s account, though Stripe is reviewing its policies and “will take appropriate action if it’s deemed necessary,” emails show.
“We applaud PayPal for taking quick action on this important matter and urge Stripe to follow suit,” Zachor Legal Institute President Marc Greendorfer, who told the companies in separate letters he’d be in contact with the IRS and Treasury Department, said in a statement to the Washington Examiner. “As we have advocated for quite some time, the problem of faux humanitarian groups being used by designated terror groups for fundraising and other support is an epidemic.”
The fundraiser developments involving major financial services companies underscore how Palestinian terrorist-tied groups and other anti-Israel activist hubs are mobilizing to support Gaza on the heels of the Oct. 7 Hamas terrorist attacks in Israel, which killed more than 1,200 people in the Jewish state.
The West Bank-based Union of Agricultural Work Committees was identified as the PFLP’s “agricultural” arm in a 1993 report prepared by Middle East expert Glenn Robinson for the U.S. Agency for International Development. In 2018, Visa, Mastercard, and American Express barred the Union of Agricultural Work Committees from using their services over its PFLP ties, according to the Israeli watchdog NGO Monitor. One year later, in 2019, Union of Agricultural Work Committees staffers Samer Arbid and Abdul Razeq Farraj were charged with involvement in a PFLP terrorist cell in the West Bank and in a roadside bombing that left Israeli teenager Rina Shnerb dead.
Bizilur, which says it opposes “neoliberal, imperialist and heteropatriarchal” systems, disclosed on its website recently that money donated in connection to the Gaza fundraiser “will be sent directly to Palestine, where UAWC is made up of a network of more than 50 local peasant committees in both Gaza and the West Bank.” Moreover, a link to the fundraiser on StopGazaStarvation.org says it’s “with the support of” both Bizilur and the committee.
“Bizilur lends its support to this campaign given the inability of UAWC to receive individual donations/shipments in its accounts (one of the restrictions/difficulties imposed by Israel as an occupying power),” the Spanish group described in a blog post about the fundraiser. “However, they can receive donations through NGOs, Foundations, Associations, etc.”
On Wednesday, Greendorfer raised concerns in a letter to PayPal that payments to the Bizilur account “will likely fund terror groups operating in Gaza,” citing multiple anti-terrorist funding laws in the U.S. Since that time, PayPal has removed the profile, while the fundraiser page no longer allows donations to be processed through PayPal.
PayPal declined a request for comment from the Washington Examiner. The company prohibits its services from being used to “violate any law, statute, ordinance or regulation” or for “the promotion of hate, violence, racial or other forms of intolerance that is discriminatory or the financial exploitation of a crime,” according to its policies.
On the other hand, Stripe still appears to be processing payments for the Gaza fundraiser, according to a Washington Examiner review. Bizilur also appears to be using a bank account through the Spanish company Laboral Kutxa to accept wire transfers, fundraising records show.
Greendorfer sent a letter on Wednesday to Stripe about the matter, to which an employee named “Joey” for the Irish American software company replied, “I’ve escalated this internally so that we can investigate the business and if it breaches our Services Agreement based on the information you have given,” noting that, “due to privacy reasons,” Stripe would be unable to share information about the outcome of its review.
“We will take appropriate action if it’s deemed necessary after our investigation,” the employee said.
Stripe does not allow its platform to be used to promote “any other products or services that are in violation of law in the jurisdictions where your business is located or targeted to,” according to its policies. Anne Herzberg, a legal adviser to NGO Monitor, said Stripe could be providing material support to terrorism.
The Union of Agricultural Work Committees is “definitely a PFLP affiliate,” Herzberg told the Washington Examiner. The Dutch government notably determined in 2022 that it would no longer allow any grants to flow to UAWC over “ties at the individual level between UAWC staff and board members and the PFLP” after suspending funding due to Raziq Farraj and Arbeed’s arrest.
“The more we learn about the scope of terror funding, its enablers around the world, and the abuse of our payment processing systems here at home, the more we realize the need for action is already overdue,” Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA), who called on the FBI and Treasury Department in September to investigate the Democratic software platform ActBlue for allowing a terrorist-tied group to fundraise, told the Washington Examiner.
An Israeli military court handed down a 12-month prison sentence for former UAWC employee Ubai Aboudi in June 2020 for “being a member and an activist of the PFLP during the period starting from 2016 and ending in July 2019” and, specifically, being “responsible for recruiting additional activists to the organization from young people and students, as well as strengthening the organization’s infrastructure in the area,” according to NGO Monitor.
Ex-president of the Union of Agricultural Work Committees Board of Trustees, Bashir al Khairi, used to lead the PFLP’s political bureau and has repeatedly done prison time for terrorist-related offenses, according to multiple reports.
A source close to the House Foreign Affairs Committee, which Issa sits on, said Republican congressional investigators need to “get creative” in finding ways to block payment processors from potentially boosting terrorist factions, including the PFLP.
“It’s more systemic than first realized, and it’s going to take a comprehensive response, to which this Congress has to be involved,” the person told the Washington Examiner.
Stripe did not respond to numerous requests for comment.