A British non-governmental organization is threatening legal action against the Israeli government over its accusation that the organization is linked to the Hamas terror group, and denies that the Hamas leader called the NGO to congratulate it.
The Palestinian Return Center this week was granted consultative status at the United Nations, prompting Israel’s UN mission to protest that the organization is associated with Hamas and “promotes anti-Israel propaganda.”
The organization said the claim that it is affiliated with Hamas — which Israel, the US and the European Union consider a terror group — is unfounded. The group said it defends the right of return for Palestinian refugees and has existed for almost two decades.
On Tuesday, Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh’s office announced that Haniyeh had called the NGO’s leader, Majed al-Zeer, and congratulated him on its new UN status.
But a spokesman for the Palestinian Return Center, Sameh Habeeb, said al-Zeer had not received a call from Haniyeh. Later on Tuesday, a Haniyeh spokesman sent a message to reporters asking them “not to deal” with the earlier announcement about the phone call.
Still, the announcement remained on Hamas’s website.
A 19-country UN committee on Monday voted on the Palestinian Return Center, with 12 countries approving, including Sudan, Venezuela, Iran, China and Cuba. The United States joined Israel and Uruguay voting against the organization, while Russia, India and Greece abstained.
Having consultative status means an NGO can attend certain UN meetings.
“This is the peak season for the UN’s theater of the absurd,” Israel’s ambassador to the UN, Ron Prosor, said in a statement. The Israeli mission did not comment Tuesday on the threat of legal action.
The same UN committee rejected a similar request by ZAKA, Israel’s voluntary emergency response and rescue service, to join the body.
The organization is staffed by mostly ultra-Orthodox Jews and operates out of Israel’s various police district. ZAKA volunteers are often on the scene of terror attacks and deadly road accidents, collecting body parts and blood for Jewish burials according to Jewish law. The group also provides first aid and search and rescue services.
This is the third consecutive year ZAKA has been turned down by the UN body, Ynet reported. The request will once again by brought to a vote in January 2016, the report said.
Consultative status, as granted to the UK-based Palestinian Return Center, provides access to UN facilities worldwide and the ability to participate in various events and debates.