Turks abandon Visa and Mastercard over Israel ties

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A growing number of Turkish citizens are ditching their Visa and Mastercard credit cards in favor of the local payment system BKM Express, amid rising tensions between Turkey and Israel over the Gaza conflict.

According to a report by the Turkish newspaper, many Turks are boycotting the international payment giants, which they accuse of supporting Israel financially and politically. The report claims that Visa and Mastercard have close ties with Israeli banks and companies and that they charge high fees and commissions from Turkish merchants and customers.

BKM Express, on the other hand, is a domestic payment system that operates under the umbrella of the Interbank Card Center (BKM), which was established in 1990 by 13 Turkish banks. BKM Express allows users to make online and mobile payments without sharing their card information and offers lower fees and faster transactions.

The report cites a survey by the Turkish research firm Konda, which found that 62 percent of Turks support boycotting products and services from countries that back Israel, while 58 percent said they would stop using Visa and Mastercard if they found out they were pro-Israel.

The report also quotes several Turkish consumers and business owners who have switched to BKM Express, expressing their solidarity with the Palestinian cause and their dissatisfaction with Visa and Mastercard.

The boycott campaign comes amid a diplomatic crisis between Turkey and Israel, following the recent escalation of violence in the Gaza Strip. Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has condemned Israel’s airstrikes on Gaza, calling them “terrorist acts” and accusing Israel of “genocide”.

Experts have also noted that the boycott campaign could boost Turkey’s efforts to develop its own digital currency and payment infrastructure, which could reduce its dependence on foreign platforms and enhance its financial sovereignty. They point out that Turkey has been working on a central bank digital currency (CBDC) project since 2019, and that it has launched several initiatives to promote digital and cashless payments, such as the Fast and Secure Payment System (TROY) and the Instant Retail Payment System (TURK).

The report concludes that the boycott campaign reflects the growing polarization and nationalism in Turkish society, as well as the deepening rift between Turkey and Israel.

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