Al-Quds Underground (AQU), a program which claims “to create a secret space for artistic expression,” is funded by Cordaid (Holland, EU), the Anna Lindh Euro-Mediterranean Foundation for the Dialogue between Cultures, and SICA. The Anna Lindh Foundation received €7 million over three years from the EU, earmarked for projects such as Al Quds Underground. AQU’s website states that the group’s vision is “[n]ot conflict and segregation, but contact and curiosity.”

In contrast, on October 30, 2009 the group refused to allow Israelis to attend one of its events. According to a Jerusalem Post report:

“Al-Quds Underground’s artistic director Merlijn Twaalfhoven of Amsterdam then told me, along with some Israeli peace activists who had arrived, that we were not welcome…‘The local people told [Twaalfhoven] months ago that Israelis cannot go. Our team [of 12 Dutch activists and eight artists] had to promise that we would not allow peaceful Israelis to come.’”

In correspondence with NGO Monitor, Cordaid officials attributed the exclusion to disruptions by Israeli participants, claiming that

“a number of Israeli visitors disturbed a performance in one of the private houses in which the festival took place. Out of fear of further incidents and out of respects for the hosts who opened their private homes for the performances, the organizers of the festival felt forced to decide the next day to ask Israeli participants to withdraw from the tour…Both the organizers and Cordaid regret that this course of events took place.”

Cordaid also asserted that “the Jerusalem Post misquoted Merlijn Twaalfhoven unfortunately” regarding the exclusion of Israelis before the first event. However, the author of the Jerusalem Post article stood behind the accuracy of the quote.

In separate correspondence with SICA, deputy director Beate Gerlings stated that its funding was based on the “artistic merits of the proposal,” and these were “achieved.”