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Israeli NGO Threatens to Sue Coinbase for Enabling Hamas’ Bitcoin Donations

Last Updated March 4, 2021 2:53 PM
Mark Emem
Last Updated March 4, 2021 2:53 PM

Cryptocurrency exchange Coinbase has been threatened with a lawsuit by an Israeli civil rights NGO Shurat HaDin (Israel Law Center) if it continues to allow Hamas to fundraise via its platform, The Jerusalem Post  reports.

Shurat HaDin now wants Coinbase to stop offering services to the Palestinian fundamentalist organization Hamas. The United States, where Coinbase is headquartered, views Hamas as a ‘Foreign Terrorist Organization’. The warning came in a letter sent to the cryptocurrency exchange by the NGO:

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. Therefore, I am writing to notify Coinbase that knowingly providing material support or resources to Hamas is a violation of U.S. federal criminal law, and to demand that Coinbase immediately terminate any and all accounts and services provided to Hamas.

Has Hamas Flouted Coinbase’s Terms of Service?

Going by Coinbase’s terms of service (ToS), Hamas may indeed have breached the user agreement. As an organization which has engaged in acts of terror, this is a violation of Coinbase’s ToS. The ToS warns users against utilizing the service in the promotion of ‘violent crimes’.

But while no terrorist threat should be ignored, this might seem like an overreaction on Israel Law Center’s part. Though Hamas has already raised some amounts in bitcoin, the figure is paltry compared to what the organization raised through cash and other traditional channels. A little over a week ago, CCN.com reported that Hamas had only collected $2,500 in bitcoin.

One of the donors was located within Palestinian territory showing that the fundraising campaign had limited success beyond Palestine.

Traceability of Bitcoin Transactions Makes the Cryptocurrency a Poor Choice for Terrorists

While the bitcoin donations could increase in the future, this is not likely to be by a significant amount. Part of the reason for this is because bitcoin is not as anonymous as cash. With the emergence of blockchain analysis firms which can be hired by law enforcement agencies, transactions are traceable and terrorist organizations are no doubt aware of this.

Several reports have already confirmed that there is low usage of cryptocurrencies in financing terrorism. Last year in September the European Union Agency for Law Enforcement (Europol) confirmed this. In a report, Europol disclosed that none of the recent terror attacks in Europe had been funded using cryptocurrencies.

Notably, the law enforcement agency instead pointed out that terrorist organizations still relied on trading channels of funding:

The use of cryptocurrencies by terrorist groups has only involved low-level transactions – their main funding still stems from conventional banking and money remittance services.

Besides Coinbase, Other U.S. Firms Have Also Faced Israel Law Center’s Wrath Too

This is Shurat HaDin’s first time to threaten or take legal action against a U.S. firm over ties to Hamas. Three years ago, the Israeli NGO filed a suit  against Facebook. In the lawsuit Israel Law Center accused the social media giant of providing a platform for Hamas. Through the platform, the Israeli NGO argued, the terrorist organization incited violence and murder against Jews.

Though not terror-related, Shurat HaDin recently wrote 22 U.S. State Legislatures accusing Airbnb of violating Anti-Boycott laws in those states. This was after Airbnb boycotted Jewish-owned properties in Samaria and Judea saying they were in disputed territory.