As if that wasn’t bad enough, the author has no problem lying to get her point across. There might be no malice in the fact that she uses “bitcoin” and “cryptocurrencies” interchangeably, even though that fact invalidates her whole argument. Maybe this isn’t her field and she’s as confused as the average citizen. However, there’s definite intellectual dishonesty in claiming that private keys can be seized and El Salvador has lost money on their bitcoin bet, for example.
Let’s read what the author actually said and answer each of the wild-wild claims.
Since this publication’s focus is bitcoin and cryptocurrencies, we’ll stick to the claims pertaining to these two topics. Everything else is out of our jurisdiction.
The article starts a little shaky, it’s obvious that technology is not the author’s forte.
“They argue that Bitcoin, the oldest and most widely held among thousands of cryptocurrencies, could be used to subvert Israeli sanctions and financial control of the money supply, give an occupied and isolated people a means to transact financially with the outside world and allow individual Palestinians a means to save in cyberspace.”
Geez, cyberspace? Really? Is this article from the year 2000? Anyway, bitcoin can definitely do all of that. And does it every day for people who are willing to put in the work and figure out how to use it. The author is far away from that group. She hasn’t even started learning about the miracle that is bitcoin and it’s already trying to ridicule it.
“Since local crypto transactions in Gaza and the West Bank do not connect directly to banks or major crypto exchanges, it remains unclear how many Palestinians have engaged with crypto at all. In fact, most crypto proponents admit that the use of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies is limited to small numbers of tech freelancers.”
The first point, that’s a good thing. “Banks or major crypto exchanges” are centralized entities. If you deal with those, the bitcoin network’s decentralization is not going to help you. The second part of the statement is true all over the world, bitcoin is still a relatively small phenomenon. Does that mean that it doesn’t have the potential to help Palestine? No, it doesn’t.
Does Hadas Thier have a problem with Alex Gladstein? It certainly seems that way. She tries to ridicule him by saying he offers “the cryptocurrency as the solution to every variety of global injustice,” not knowing the potential of this earth-shattering technology. Back to Palestine:
“Further, the economic analysis used to justify crypto-based solutions misunderstands the roots of the problem. Gladstein claims that “money lies at the very root of [Palestinians’] struggles.” But in fact, the monetary relationship between Israel and the Palestinians reflects a more fundamental political asymmetry of power. Israeli policy has long sought to prevent the emergence of a viable Palestinian state or movement. The sabotaging of the Palestinian economy is an outgrowth of this political reality, which cannot be skirted via cyberspace.”
Money lies at the root of every struggle because money is the cornerstone of every society. Everything she says about Palestine can be true, but money is still at the root of that problem. Plus, she claims political reality “cannot be skirted via cyberspace” like it’s a fact. That’s just the opinion of someone that doesn’t even imagine the eternal problem that bitcoin solves. That is: the separation of money and state.
Later on, the author claims “Gladstein relies heavily on the work of political economist and scholar Sara Roy.” And reveals, “Roy’s economic analysis is not confined to questions of currency,” like that’s some kind of limitation.
“I spoke to Roy about Gladstein’s article. She strenuously disagreed with the notion that “cryptocurrency is somehow impervious to the political reality in which Palestinians and Israelis reside” or that it could “give dispossessed Palestinians parity with empowered Israelis, eliminating the gross asymmetries of power between them and granting Palestinians economic sovereignty.”
First of all, bitcoin and cryptocurrencies are two different things. Secondly, maybe Gladstein exaggerated there. Does that mean that bitcoin can’t help the Palestinians willing to do the work and learn how to operate in this new world? No, it doesn’t. Bitcoin can and is definitely helping Palestine. It’s not and it’ll never be a miracle cure, though.
This is where the intellectual dishonesty intensifies. For example, the author says:
“One year later, very few Salvadorans use Bitcoin, but the government’s investments in Bitcoin have thus far lost tens of millions of dollars’ worth of public funds. For a country with relatively high public debt, investment in such a volatile asset could further strain the state’s budget and leave the country vulnerable to defaulting on its debt obligations.”
El Salvador hasn’t lost one dollar because they haven’t sold one bitcoin. Does this woman think that the Salvadorean government wasn’t aware of bitcoin’s volatility? That’s insulting. Plus, El Salvador’s economy is practically the only one in the world that’s currently showing signs of growth. While other dollarized countries like Ecuador and Panama are struggling, El Salvador thrives.
“Some receive bitcoin directly through mobile apps from friends or family abroad. Others use Telegram groups to coordinate in-person meetups to trade cash for bitcoin, or they take cash to brick-and-mortar shops and make the exchanges there. At these stores, Uqab said, the authorities take a cut and keep lists of who is buying and selling. No one yet, he said, has been arrested for Bitcoin use. To store bitcoin on their phones, Gazans might use Binance or Payeer as custodial solutions, or Blue Wallet, which has native Arabic language support, as a non-custodial solution.”
We could interpret the following paragraph as Thier’s weak response:
“Lastly, the more limited promise of easier transmission of remittances from Palestinians in the diaspora is also flawed. First are the barriers to sending remittances, which in most instances require a bank account and identification, as well as often high fees. Then the wildly fluctuating value of bitcoin and other digital assets means that what might start as $100 worth of bitcoin could result in $50 by the time it is withdrawn, provided the recipient finds a way to convert the bitcoin to cash.”
What is this woman talking about? “Bank account”? “Identification”? “High fees”? Not with bitcoin. And the “wildly fluctuating value of bitcoin” also means that those $100 worth of bitcoin could result in $200 by the time it is withdrawn.
This is where the author loses all traces of decency. She claims:
“Officials didn’t specify how much cryptocurrency has been seized. But Elliptic’s report showed Hamas collectively received over $7.7 million in crypto-assets.”
If Hamas had their cryptocurrency in a centralized service, ok, some intelligence agency can seize their coins. That’s why one of bitcoin’s central tenets is “Not your Keys, Not Your Coins.” If Hamas had their coins in self-custody, there’s absolutely no way that those were seized. And Hadas Thier would know that if she had done her homework. What she did instead was exaggerating about an already bogus report that didn’t say anything about “private keys.”
“Neither Gladstein nor others in the crypto community are willing to say that they support Hamas in doing so because it further implicates blockchain technology as a conduit for skirting illegality.”
Another one of bitcoin’s central tenets is “Bitcoin is money for enemies.” The logic here is that if your enemies are guaranteed to be able to use bitcoin, your friends have the same guarantee. In other words, bitcoin is for everyone, even people breaking the law. Everyone in bitcoin is willing to say that and often does.