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ADL Rejects Anti-Israel Activist Linda Sarsour Over BDS, Upholds Her ‘First Amendment Right’ to Address CUNY Graduation Ceremony

avatar by Ben Cohen

Linda Sarsour. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) issued a sharp rejection on Thursday of the pro-BDS positions advocated by Linda Sarsour — the controversial Palestinian-American activist who is scheduled to deliver the commencement speech at the graduating ceremony of the City University of New York (CUNY) School of Public Health on Thursday, June 1.

Sarsour, a co-organizer of the Women’s March held in Washington, DC in January, has enjoyed a rapid rise to prominence among progressives over the last year, despite an established record of violent outbursts against her political opponents on social media, as well as her ideological baiting of the Jewish community. Her statements have included the contention that “nothing is creepier than Zionism,” as well as her forthright insistence that pro-Israel women should be excluded from the feminist movement on the grounds that “it just doesn’t make any sense for someone to say, ‘Is there room for people who support the state of Israel and do not criticize it in the movement?’ There can’t be in feminism.”

“We profoundly reject Linda Sarsour’s positions that delegitimize Israel,” said ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt in a statement. “We have vigorously opposed efforts like the Boycott Divestment and Sanction (BDS) movement, which she supports and we oppose her stance that one cannot be simultaneously a feminist and pro-Israel.”

The ADL was firm that Sarsour should be allowed to speak at CUNY nonetheless. “Despite our deep opposition to Sarsour’s views on Israel, we believe that she has a First Amendment right to offer those views,” Greenblatt told The Algemeiner.

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Greenblatt pointed out that this perspective is shared by CUNY Chancellor James B. Milliken, who recognizes, he said, “that defending one’s right to free speech does not equate to defending the content of that speech.” Greenblatt said he commended Milliken’s “principled leadership in denouncing BDS and distancing the University from Sarsour’s problematic views.”

The ADL also upbraided speakers at a rally opposing Sarsour’s CUNY invite — held outside CUNY’s offices in midtown Manhattan earlier on Thursday — for their “anti-Muslim bigotry and other invective.” Among the rally’s organizers were far-right firebrand Pamela Geller and Milo Yiannopoulos, a media provocateur who on Wednesday slammed US pop singer Ariana Grande — whose concert in Manchester on Monday night was targeted by an Islamist suicide bomber — for being “pro-Islam.”

Sarsour’s invitation to speak at the CUNY ceremony — where Chirlane McCray, wife of New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, will receive an honorary doctorate — has been strongly criticized by a number of influential Jewish figures, among them ADL National Director Emeritus Abraham Foxman. In an April 30 interview with The Algemeiner, Foxman cautioned against canceling the invite to Sarsour, arguing that doing so would turn her into a “free speech martyr.” But, Foxman said, the invite should not have been extended in the first place.

“She is an enemy of Jewish sovereignty and Jewish liberation,” Foxman stated. “She’s a bigot.”

In an exclusive Algemeiner opinion column published on Wednesday, the Israeli writer Petra Marquardt-Bigman examined Sarsour’s links with Nation of Islam (NoI) leader Louis Farrakhan  — described by the ADL as “the leading anti-Semite in America.” Marquardt-Bigman pointed out that in 2015, Sarsour shared a platform with Farrakhan at his “Justice or Else” rally in Washington, DC.

At that event, Farrakhan attacked Jews for “saying they’re the children of God, and they don’t have no forgiveness in them.” For her part, Sarsour asserted that the “common enemy … is white supremacy” and that “the liberation of the Palestinian people is bound up with the liberation of Black people in America.”

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