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NAACP asks Biden to halt weapons to Israel as he seeks to shore up black voter support

derrick johnson

The NAACP, which has advocated for racial justice and rights for Black Americans, said the US must use its influence with Israel to bring a permanent ceasefire to Gaza.

By The Algemeiner and Reuters

The NAACP urged President Joe Biden on Thursday to “indefinitely” halt all weapons deliveries to Israel and pressure the US ally to end its war in the Gaza Strip, sending a reminder that his support for Israel could hurt him among Black voters in November’s election.

The NAACP’s call was a rare instance of the influential civil rights organization taking a position on US foreign policy towards a country without a significant Black population.

It appeared likely to deepen the Democratic president’s election-year challenges as he tries to back a key ally abroad and temper unrest among his supporters at home.

The 115-year-old civil rights group said Israel had a right to defend itself after the Hamas terrorist attacks on Oct. 7 that killed some 1,200 people and took more than 250 hostages.

The NAACP urged Hamas to return the hostages and “stop all terrorist activity.” It also urged Israel to “commit to an offensive strategy that is aligned with international and humanitarian laws.”

Israel has been waging a military campaign against Hamas in Gaza aimed at freeing the hostages and destroying the Palestinian terrorist group, which rules the coastal enclave.

Critics have falsely accused the Israeli military of committing genocide against Palestinians during its operations in Gaza.

The NAACP, which has advocated for racial justice and rights for Black Americans, said the US must use its influence with Israel to bring a permanent ceasefire to Gaza.

“The NAACP calls on President Biden to draw the red line and indefinitely end the shipment of all weapons and artillery to the state of Israel and other states that supply weapons to Hamas and other terrorist organizations. It is imperative that the violence that has claimed so many civilian lives, immediately stop,” the organization said in a statement first provided to Reuters.

The NAACP stance represents the latest warning sign that Biden may pay a price at the ballot box among Black voters on Nov. 5 for his staunch support of Israel.

Black voters have long been a loyal Democratic constituency, and they played a significant role in Biden’s victory in 2020 when he beat Republican Donald Trump, whom he faces again this year. But polls show a lack of enthusiasm for Biden among Black voters.

Earlier this year, a group of more than 1,000 Black pastors called on Biden to secure a ceasefire in the crisis.

A poll by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in March found that 59 percent of Black Americans believe US military aid to Israel should only be used for self defense and in accordance with human rights standards.

Biden’s re-election campaign is not as concerned that Black voters will shift toward Trump as they are that too many of them may sit out the election due to lack of enthusiasm, campaign officials have told Reuters.

After growing domestic pressure and international outrage, Biden paused a shipment of bombs last month to avoid their possible use in Israel‘s operations in the Gaza city of Rafah. But the pause was limited, and the US remains the top supplier of military aid to Israel.

Biden on Friday said Israel proposed a fresh Gaza ceasefire in exchange for the release of hostages. He called on Hamas to agree to the new offer, saying it was the best way to end the conflict. “It’s time for this war to end and for the day after to begin,” Biden said.

NAACP LEADER CALLS FOR US MORAL LEADERSHIP

In an interview with Reuters, NAACP President Derrick Johnson said the US needs to show moral leadership and stop sending weapons to Israel because of civilian deaths.

Israel says it takes care to avoid civilian casualties and blames Hamas for, it says, hiding its fighters and command centers among civilians.

Johnson said the NAACP’s decision to speak out was driven in part by young Black Americans horrified by the images of dead Palestinian civilians on their smart phones.

“It’s raising a lot of questions around why our tax dollars are being used to harm civilians,” Johnson said.

Democrats are deeply divided over Biden’s handling of both the war in Gaza and the US campus protests against it, a May Reuters/Ipsos poll found.

Some 44 percent of Democratic registered voters said they disapproved of Biden’s handling of the crisis. Those who disapproved were less likely to say they would vote for Biden.

The conflict has also stoked US antisemitism, Islamophobia, and xenophobia that Johnson said will continue to grow as the fighting continues. Antisemitic incidents have reached record levels in the US since Oct. 7.

Johnson said the NAACP does not believe Biden’s support for Israel is responsible for the trend but wants the US to more forcefully advance peace by withholding weapons.

“We believe … it’s the responsibility of this nation to chart a course to de-escalate what we are seeing so that there can be a peaceful resolution,” Johnson said.

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