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In the relentless struggle between Israel and Hamas, where suffering and human rights violations continue to dominate headlines, an unexpected player has entered the humanitarian arena: cryptocurrency.
How can crypto aid provide humanitarian support and what can be done to minimise its misuse?
Cue the establishment of Crypto Aid Israel to provide much-needed humanitarian relief.
This collective, established less than two weeks ago, has demonstrated remarkable fundraising success, amassing over $185,000 in donations to date.
This initiative has made significant strides in providing crucial assistance, having conducted two rounds of aid distribution thus far, with approximately 200,000 shekels (equivalent to $50,000) disbursed.
Several humanitarian organisations have benefitted from these generous contributions, including the Foundation for Advancing Citizens of Eshkol Regional Council, Zaka, Latet, and Lev Echad.
These funds are being allocated for various essential purposes, such as supporting search and rescue missions, procuring vital medical equipment, and providing necessities like food and transportation to disadvantaged citizens.
Lev Echad, which typically focuses on at-risk youth, has directed funds towards providing food, hygiene products, and clothing to residents of areas near Gaza who have chosen to remain in those regions to offer protection and support.
Latet is embarking on an operation to supply food and hygiene products to individuals from the southern regions of Israel, including those who have stayed in place and those who have been relocated.
A crypto and new digital initiatives adviser to Latet, Eyal Gura, expressed his belief:
“We believe that while modest initially, the crypto channel is an important, speedy and innovative one and will enable new contributors to join our global ecosystem and support Israel in such an important hour. The crypto channel is an important, speedy and innovative one and will enable new contributors to join our global ecosystem and support Israel in such an important hour.”
While Crypto Aid Israel has demonstrated substantial progress in its mission, it has not been without its challenges.
The organisation experienced a “serious phishing attack” and a brief website disruption lasting approximately 30 minutes.
It remains unclear whether any funds were compromised due to these incidents.
It is worth noting that the cryptocurrency space is increasingly focused on preventing the misuse of funds for nefarious purposes.
Recent actions, such as Binance freezing wallets allegedly linked to the militant group Hamas and the United States (US) Treasury Department’s sanctions on a cryptocurrency operator in Gaza with purported ties to Hamas, underscore the urgency of these efforts.
Moreover, there is a proposal to designate cryptocurrency mixing as an area of “primary money laundering concern.”
This issue has gained the attention of over 100 US lawmakers, who have sent a letter to the Treasury Department inquiring about the potential use of cryptocurrency in financing terrorism as of 17 October.
Transportation and Shelter:
Cryptocurrency has emerged as a lifeline for providing shelter and transportation to those displaced by conflict.
It enables NGOs and individuals to transfer funds instantly, making it possible to rent shelters and transport the displaced safely.
Cryptocurrency transactions offer transparency and security, ensuring that aid reaches the intended beneficiaries.
Medical Equipment and Protective Gear:
In conflict zones like Gaza, access to medical equipment and protective gear can be a matter of life and death.
Cryptocurrency donations help procure essential medical supplies and personal protective equipment, ensuring that healthcare providers can safely deliver care to those in need.
Food and Hygiene Products:
Cryptocurrency is being used to purchase and distribute these supplies quickly and efficiently.
Transparent blockchain technology enables donors to track their contributions, ensuring they reach those who need them most.
Cryptocurrency fosters financial inclusion, enabling individuals in conflict zones to access banking services and participate in economic activities.
This empowerment can be life-changing for those trying to rebuild their lives amidst the chaos of war.
Bypassing Traditional Barriers:
Cryptocurrency is borderless, allowing aid to flow where traditional financial systems fail.
This feature is especially vital in conflict zones where banks may be inaccessible or controlled by opposing forces.
Efforts to harness cryptocurrency for humanitarian relief in the Israel-Hamas conflict must be accompanied by stringent oversight and transparency to prevent its misuse.
But how you may ask.
Blockchain technology can be leveraged to track and monitor the use of cryptocurrency in conflict zones.
This can help prevent misuse and ensure funds are directed toward genuine humanitarian needs.
Governments and international organisations should collaborate to establish clear regulatory frameworks that address both security concerns and the needs of those in crisis.
These frameworks should encourage innovation while minimising illicit use.
Awareness and Education:
Promoting awareness among cryptocurrency users and organisations about the potential pitfalls and ethical considerations when contributing to conflict zones is crucial.
Education can help prevent well-intentioned contributions from inadvertently falling into the wrong hands.
NGOs, governments, and cryptocurrency experts should collaborate to develop best practices for utilising cryptocurrency in humanitarian efforts.
Sharing knowledge and experiences can improve the efficiency and effectiveness of relief operations.
The anonymity and decentralised nature of cryptocurrencies make them an ideal tool for terror financing.
As the conflict intensifies, the misuse of cryptocurrencies by criminal elements becomes increasingly problematic, and measures need to be taken.
An initiative called the Crypto Trust Seal (CTS) was announced this week; it endeavours to bring “much-needed transparency to the crypto industry.”
I believe that the future of cryptocurrency in conflict zones depends on our ability to adapt and harness this innovation for the greater good while minimising its potential for harm.
It is not like you can command bad actors from financing terrorism, nor can you stop people from providing aid, so it depends on what we do and how much effort we put in for a better cause.
In doing so, we can provide much-needed aid and support to those who need it most while striving for a more peaceful world.