UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - The British-based Palestinian Return Center on Tuesday threatened Israel’s U.N. mission with legal action after the Jewish state accused it of having ties to the Palestinian militant group Hamas, an allegation the group said was false.
The Israeli accusations came after a United Nations committee that oversees non-governmental organizations voted to approve U.N accreditation for the PRC, which Israel’s mission said was not only linked to Hamas but promoted “anti-Israel propaganda in Europe.”
“We announce that PRC is considering legal action against the Israeli delegation at the U.N.,” the group said in a statement circulated to the 19-member U.N. Committee on Non-Governmental Organizations.
“Such allegations and defamation where we are described as terrorist and affiliated to Hamas are dangerous, baseless and will have negative ramifications on our work and members,” the group added.
On Monday, the mission said Israel had banned the PRC in 2010 because of its ties to Hamas, labeling it “an organizational and coordinating wing of Hamas in Europe” with members that include senior Hamas officials.
The Israeli mission responded to the group’s announcement by saying its statement still applied.
Hamas said in a statement that its deputy chief, Ismail Haniyeh, phoned PRC Chairman Majed Al-Zeer to congratulate him on the successful U.N. vote. But Sameh Habeeb, a spokesman for PRC, denied the conversation took place.
The PRC operates as a legal entity in Britain. The British mission did not react to Monday’s vote in the U.N. NGO committee.
The United States and European Union have designated Hamas, the de facto authority of the Gaza Strip, a terrorist organization. The internationally recognized Palestinian Authority controls the West Bank.
The PRC statement said the Israeli allegations had no credence and were solely based on Israeli intelligence and other sources from within Israel. It added that there was no corroborating evidence from a third country.
The PRC said it would soon send an official letter of protest to U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and the 54 member states of the U.N. Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), which has final say on NGO-related matters.
On its website, the PRC describes itself as “an independent consultancy focusing on the historical, political and legal aspects of the Palestinian Refugees.”
Official U.N. status as an NGO gives groups access to U.N. premises and opportunities to attend or observe many events and conferences at United Nations sites around the world.
Additional reporting by Nidal Al Mughrabi in Gaza; Editing by Alan Crosby