As founding president of the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding, Rabbi Marc
Schneier has devoted much of his career to promoting religious tolerance between
Jews and Muslims. But when a Palestinian imam attacked Israel at an interfaith
conference in Qatar on Monday, the rabbi felt he couldn’t remain
Sheikh Taysir al-Tamimi, the chief Islamic judge of the
Palestinian Authority, took to the podium accusing Israel of illegally occupying
Jerusalem, “Judaizing” the city, and peddling drugs to local Palestinian
Taken aback, Schneier said he decided to call Tamimi out for his
“shameful and offensive remarks.”
“Jerusalem represents Jewish hopes and
dreams,” he told the audience in his keynote address. “For millennia, we have
prayed toward 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’.
Jerusalem has always been the capital of the Jewish state, ancient or
It is therefore an insult to all of us to accuse us of illegally
occupying the city.”
Speaking to The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday,
Schneier explained why he decided to confront the Palestinian religious leader
at this conference, held in an Arab and Muslim state that had no diplomatic ties
“I’m all for dialogue and understanding, but I’m not going
to sit there as people speak mistruths and beat up on Israel,” he explained. “I
do believe Jews and Muslims share a common faith and fate but we have to be fair
Besides the exchange between Schneier and Tamimi, this year’s
interfaith conference stirred controversy last week when an Egyptian cleric
cancelled his attendance because there would be Jewish
According to the Al Masry Al Youm newspaper, Egyptian
Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradaw, the Head of the International Union of Muslim Scholars,
announced his intention to boycott the conference because he was opposed to
discourse with Jews in principle.
The sheikh reportedly said he rejects
Jewish political, rather than religious, affiliation.
incidents, Schneier said he felt conferences like the one at Doha helped promote
better understanding between the faiths. “I feel much more optimism coming out
of this conference,” he said.
“Only one person spoke like that and many
Muslim leaders came and said they were embarrassed by his comments. I think it’s
important to engage people but I’m not going to compromise my people and my
homeland. “ Schneier said he was currently organizing an event set to take place
next month aimed at confronting Islamophobia and anti-Semitism.
to the rabbi, some 50 mosques and 50 synagogues throughout the United States and
Canada will cooperate in tackling the two forms of bias together.