American Rabbi Marc Schneier has defended the State of Israel against a diatribe delivered by the chief Islamic judge of the Palestinian Authority, Sheikh Taysir al-Tamimi, during an international interfaith conference in the Qatari capital of Doha.

Al-Tamimi told participants during his speech that Israel was “illegally occupying” and “Judaizing” the holy city of Jerusalem. The Muslim cleric spoke at the 8th Doha conference of Interfaith Dialogue, which opened Tuesday with an address by Qatari Justice Minister Hassan bin Abdullah al Ghanim.

Rabbi Schneier, the founding president of the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding and vice president of the World Jewish Congress, responded, “Jerusalem represents Jewish hopes and dreams. For millennia, we have prayed towards Jerusalem.

“We pray at the Western Wall, we mourn the destruction of our Temple 2,000 years ago, and we tell each other ‘Next year in Jerusalem,” he told participants.

“Jerusalem has always been the capital of the Jewish state, ancient or modern. It is therefore an insult to all of us to accuse us of illegally occupying the city.”

Rabbi Schneier added, “At the same time, we respect that Jerusalem is a holy place for Christians and Muslims as well. We know that the status of Jerusalem is at the forefront of peace talks – but denying the other side’s right to be there is wrong, and counter productive.”

The rabbi, who serves as a spiritual leader in the Hamptons and is known as a civil rights activist, made an obvious effort to reduce tensions, and praised the organizers of the conference. “This is what inter-religious dialogue is all about, “he said, “winning the future, and not fighting the battles of the past.”