Israel denounces UN recognition of Palestinian NGO

Israel on Tuesday denounced as “outrageous” a UN decision to recognise a London-based Palestinian non-governmental organisation it says is affiliated with the militant Islamist Hamas movement.

In a decision late on Monday, the UN committee on non-governmental organisations voted in favour of recognising the Palestinian Return Centre (PRC) as a permanent NGO with access to the world body’s many forums.

The vote passed by 12 votes to three, with three abstentions.

The move was roundly denounced by Israel, which outlawed the group in 2010, accusing it of being involved in “terror-affiliated activities” and serving as “the organisational and coordinating wing of Hamas in Europe”.

But the PRC flatly denied it was affiliated with any Palestinian party including Hamas, calling Israel’s claims “false and unfounded”.

“The decision to add an organisation that belongs to Hamas to the list of UN organisations is outrageous,” said Israel’s newly appointed deputy foreign minister Tzipi Hotovely in a statement.

“Admitting an organisation that identifies with Hamas to the list of UN organisations is handing a prize to terror and its operations – there is no other way to interpret this decision.”

Ron Prosor, Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations, said the move amounted to the UN giving “Hamas a welcoming celebration at its main entrance, allowing it to be a full participant”.

In December 2010, then defence minister Ehud Barak banned the group from operating in Israel, accusing it of “initiating and organising radical and violent activity against Israel in Europe”.

It said its members were “senior Hamas leaders who promote the movement’s agenda in Europe”, and were involved in organising conferences hosting Hamas and Muslim Brotherhood activists.

On its website, the PRC describes itself as an independent consultancy, which offers expert advice on the question of Palestinian refugees and their right to return to homes they fled or were forced out of during the 1948 war that accompanied Israel’s creation.

The group said it would send a letter of protest to the UN over “the false allegations circulated by Israel … (which) blatantly accused PRC of adopting terrorism and violence as a tool”.

The United States, Uruguay and Israel voted against recognising the PRC as a permanent NGO, while Iran, Pakistan, Sudan, Turkey and Venezuela were among the nations that supported its application.

Last summer, Israel and Hamas – the de facto power in Gaza – fought a 50-day war which killed about 2 200 Palestinians, most of them civilians, and 73 on the Israeli side, mostly soldiers. – AFP

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