NEW YORK - After a months-long silence on the issue, the Anti-Defamation League finally reacted to the ongoing controversy surrounding anti-Israel activist Linda Sarsour’s upcoming speech at a City University of New York graduation, and defended her right to free speech.

“Despite our deep opposition to Sarsour’s views on Israel, we believe that she has a First Amendment right to offer those views,” ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt told The Jerusalem Post.  “CUNY Chancellor Milliken shares in this belief, and recognizes that defending one's right to free speech does not equate to defending the content of that speech.”

The ADL’s reaction comes just hours after protesters clashed over the issue during a rally on Manhattan’s 42nd street, where hundreds of people had gathered, despite heavy rain, to call for Sarsour’s speech to be canceled. They were met with strong opposition from vocal supporters of the Palestinian-American activist.

In a statement sent out just after the event, ADL said that while it “profoundly rejects Sarsour’s positions that delegitimize Israel”, it also condemns some of her protesters’ rhetoric.

“We strongly condemn the anti-Muslim bigotry and other invective spouted by speakers at today's demonstration against Sarsour in Manhattan,” the statement continued, referring to some of the comments made on the protest stage by controversial activists like Pamela Geller and Milo Yiannopoulos. “There is no excuse for bigotry.”

The ADL had spoken out several months ago against Sarsour’s comment in a March interview with The Nation, in which she said that one cannot be a feminist unless he or she is critical of Israel’s occupation of the West Bank.

The organization however had remained silent since her participation in the CUNY commencement ceremony was announced, which earned it much criticism from those leading efforts to cancel the speech.

“As has been our mission for over a century, ADL will stand up against the defamation of the Jewish people and for equal justice for all, which includes robust protections for free speech in our society,” the organization concluded. “But, we will not relent in calling out and debunking hateful or defamatory ideas from wherever they arise.”

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