Click here to read NGO Monitor’s analysis of the Cordaid-funded Al Quds Underground

  1. NGO Monitor letter to Cordaid on its support for Al Quds Underground, November 10, 2009
  2. Reply from Cordaid, November 13, 2009
  3. Response by NGO Monitor, November 18, 2009
  4. Follow up questions from NGO Monitor, on discrepancies, November 19, 2009
  5. Reply of Cordaid, November 23, 2009

1. NGO Monitor letter to Cordaid on its support for Al Quds Underground

November 10, 2009

Jeanne Abdulla
Responsible, Middle East

RE: Support for Al Quds Underground

Dear Ms. Abdulla,

Al Quds Underground, a Palestinian program designed “to create a secret space for artistic
expression,” claims to receive funding from CORDAID. Regarding an October 30, 2009
event held by this group, an article in the Jerusalem Post reported:

“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.’” (

We will be publishing an analysis of this program and its funding sources on November 17,
2009. In order to accurately portray your support, we have the following questions:

  • Are you aware of the decision not to allow Israelis to participate?
  • Does this correspond to CORDAID’s funding policies and guidelines?
  • Will this lead to a review of funding for this project?

A prompt response would be appreciated.

Gerald Steinberg
NGO Monitor

NGO Monitor ( was founded to promote critical debate and
accountability regarding the political activities of non-governmental organizations. We have
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2. Reply from Cordaid

Gerald Steinberger
NGO Monitor

November 13, 2009

Re: Your questions about Cordaid’s support to the Al Quds Underground Festival

Dear Mr. Steinberger,

Following our response to the questions you sent us November 10, 2009:

Q. Are you aware of the decision not to allow Israelis to participate?
A. Yes, some days after the festival we were informed that at the first evening of the festival 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.

Q. Does this correspond to Cordaid’s funding policies and guidelines
A. Human dignity and respect for diversity are important pillars under Cordaid’s funding policies and guidelines. The organizers had the clear will to make the performances accessible for the different groups in the Jeruzalem society, which is in line with Cordaid’s policy. The fact that some of the participants didn’t show respect for the hospitality of their hosts, was the reason for the organizers to change this policy of openness. Both the organizers and Cordaid regret that this course of events took place.

Q. Will this lead to a review of funding for this project?
A. For future projects Cordaid will look into possibilities and measurements preventing situations alike. It is of great importance to Cordaid that similar events maintain an open and accessible character for everyone. Anyone who wants to participate, paying due respect to organizers, co-participants and hosts should be able to do so. Respect and dignity should be leading in the interaction.


Elianne Hoving
Press Officer Cordaid

3. Response by NGO Monitor

November 18, 2009

Dear Ms. Hoving,

Thank you for your reply and expansion on the background of the Al Quds Underground event.

NGO Monitor notes that the exclusion of Israeli participants was not only contrary to the spirit of peace and cooperation, but also contrary to Cordaid’s own guidelines. Given the strongly-worded condemnations by Cordaid and other NGOs of Israel’s alleged “collective punishment” of the Palestinians, the collective exclusion of Israelis is particularly disconcerting.

Successful co-existence programs require courageous steps on both sides, to ensure “openness and accessibility” and “respect and dignity.” We encourage Cordaid to implement firm guidelines to prevent a repetition of the unfortunate exclusion, and to make financial support dependant on ensuring and guaranteeing inclusive participation.

We look forward to continued dialogue with Cordaid on these important issues.


Gerald Steinberg
NGO Monitor

Cc: Jeanne Abdulla

4.  Follow up questions from NGO Monitor, on discrepancies

November 19, 2009

Dear Ms. Hoving,

I want to once again thank you for your responses to our earlier questions.

Can you please clarify a couple of points from your response:

1) According to your email, the orignal intention was to include Israelis, but after the first day, this decision was reversed. However, according to the program’s artistic director, Merlijn Twaalfhoven, as quoted in the Jerusalem Post, the decision to exclude Israelis occurred "months ago."

2) Additionally, you state that "you were informed" of the events. Did the organizers from Al Quds Underground inform you, or did you learn of the developments from another source?

For your information, we are delaying publication of our report until Monday, November 23, to allow for inclusion of your responses.


Gerald Steinberg

5. Reply of Cordaid

November 23, 2009

Dear Mr. Steinberger,

The Jerusalem Post misquoted Merlijn Twaalfhoven unfortunately.

The organizers of the Al Quds Underground Festival informed us directly in a manner that was open and transparent.

We thank you for your recommendation.


Elianne Hoving
Press Officer