UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The United Nations approved U.N. accreditation Monday for the London-based Palestinian Return Center in a defeat for Israel which claims the organization is affiliated with Hamas and "openly promotes terrorism."
The center, which describes itself as an independent consultancy dedicated to find a solution for the Palestinian refugees in accordance with international law, has denied the Israeli allegations. It announced last Friday that it was starting legal action against Israel's U.N. Mission for alleged defamation.
Last month, the U.N. committee that accredits non-governmental organizations, or NGOs, recommended that the center's application be approved. But Israel circulated a resolution, co-sponsored by the United States, Australia and Canada, to the committee's parent body, the 54-member Economic and Social Council known as ECOSOC, opposing the application for consultative status.
In Monday's vote, 13 countries supported Israel's resolution, 16 were opposed and 18 abstained, which meant the resolution was defeated and the application was approved.
Israel's Deputy U.N. Ambassador David Roet said before the vote that the center "is not what it claims to be."
Roet said world media sources, intelligence agencies and independent researchers have cited numerous links between the center and Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip. He called the center "an essential part of the Hamas network in Europe," that recruits, radicalizes and encourages operatives to take up arms against Israel.
The center says it has been operating in Britain and Europe since 1966 and specializes "in the research, analysis, and monitor of issues pertaining to the dispersed Palestinians and their internationally recognized legal right to return." It says it has worked with different British governments and members of Parliament from all parties.
U.S. Deputy U.N. Ambassador Michele Sisson said the center only applied for consultative status a year ago and the United States has "serious concerns" about its background and activities that haven't been answered.