Fadi Elsalamin is a political commentator on Arab-Israeli issues and an assistant senior contributor to the American Security Project. He is a vocal critic of Mahmoud Abbas, the head of the Palestinian Authority, and has received several death threats and survived an assassination attempt.
Elsalamin believes that an important step in the liberation of the Palestinians is monetary freedom – in particular bitcoin, which can help them circumvent the Palestinian Authority’s control over their finances. In April, he spoke with The reasonNoor Greene at the Bitcoin 2022 conference in Miami.
Question: What is the role of the Palestinian Authority in Palestine today?
A: The Palestinian Authority is a burden on the Palestinian people. Almost 84 percent of the population believes that the Palestinian Authority is corrupt. We have spent almost $ 40 billion in the Palestinian territories since 1993, and there is not much to show for that money. But we have very rich politicians. Most of the economic sector is monopolized by politicians who are directly connected to the president. And the president is 18 years old, even though he was only elected for a four-year term.
Q: As a Palestinian, how would you deal with corruption by the Palestinian Authority?
A: Most of the Palestinian economy depends on labor in Israel. If you are a Palestinian worker, you need a permit to enter Israel to work, which is provided free of charge by Israelis. But you have to pay the corrupt Palestinian official, who is now Minister of Civil Affairs, $ 500 a month to maintain his permit. So they impose a tax on you as a worker. If you are a Palestinian living under Palestinian rule, under Israeli occupation, you are really fighting with all your might, whether it is corruption, military occupation, lack of freedom, lack of expression or no independence.
Question: Where does the aid that the United States and other countries send to Palestine go?
A: Unfortunately, aid sent from the United States or Europe is mostly for the benefit of corrupt Palestinian officials. And if you send aid to strengthen and promote corruption, you are fighting democracy. We need to step back for a second, not only to stop the aid, but also to stop the way aid is being sent. That’s why we talked about introducing bitcoin into the equation. Bitcoin is a solution in which the Palestinian Authority is not involved, the banks are not involved and it is a direct aid from the United States.
Q: How can bitcoin be used effectively in Palestine?
A: Bitcoin offers a way for people living under repressive regimes to make a living outside the confines of corruption, outside the abuse of dictators. I am a big fan of bitcoin, especially in Palestine and for the Palestinians, because I think this is one way to limit the influence of a corrupt regime like the Palestinian Authority. But it is also a new way for the Palestinian generation to join the rest of the world. The conflict is holding back Palestinian youth. And the Palestinian population is very young. Gaza has 2.5 million people – half of them under the age of 18. Two-thirds of the Palestinian population is under the age of 30. Seventy percent of our population is very active on the Internet. So, if we want to raise our society and bring it out of poverty, to get it out of corruption, to get it out of the brutality of the occupation, we have to look for new ways to achieve that. I see bitcoin as a peaceful means of empowering the local population.
This interview has been shortened and edited for style and clarity. For the video version, visit reason.com.