N.A.A.C.P. Calls on Biden to Halt Arms Deliveries to Israel

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The N.A.A.C.P., the oldest and largest civil rights group in the nation, called on Thursday for President Biden to “draw the red line” and halt weapons shipments to Israel over the mounting civilian death toll in its war in Gaza.

In a rare foray into foreign policy, the influential organization added to the mounting pressure from Black leaders on Mr. Biden to stop aiding Israel’s war in Gaza. Its warning comes as Mr. Biden tries to shore up softening support among Black Americans, a constituency that was crucial in catapulting him to the White House in 2020 and that he will need to win his re-election bid in November.

In its statement, the N.A.A.C.P. called on Mr. Biden to “draw the red line and indefinitely end the shipment of weapons and artillery” to Israel and any states that supply weapons to terrorist organizations, including Hamas.

“The Middle East conflict will only be resolved when the U.S. government and international community take action, including limiting access to weapons used against civilians,” the statement said.

The N.A.A.C.P.’s announcement came the same day that an Israeli airstrike in central Gaza killed dozens of people at a United Nations school complex that had become a shelter for thousands of displaced Palestinians.

It tightens the political bind Mr. Biden finds himself in as he pushes for a cease-fire to end the war while continuing to provide support for a longtime U.S. ally. He has recently withheld some offensive weapons from Israel and has threatened to hold back more, but has also made clear that he will continue to supply defense systems and arms that aid in Israel’s “ability to respond to attacks” like one Iran launched in April.

The narrow path he is trying to walk has elicited opposition, with some progressive members of his party accusing him of aiding in a slaughter while Republicans and some pro-Israel Democrats criticize his decisions to hold up any weapons.

Though not seen as the most pressing election-year issue, the U.S. support for the war in Gaza has become a flashpoint in the Black community, which has long empathized with the plight of the Palestinians. Earlier this year, more than 1,000 Black pastors representing hundreds of thousands of congregants nationwide issued a demand for Mr. Biden to call for a cease-fire.

Derrick Johnson, the president of the N.A.A.C.P., said the statement came amid growing concerns among its members about the civilian death toll, particularly young Black people and faith leaders across the country.

“We come from a community that has endured historical trauma, attacks, intimidation,” Mr. Johnson said. “And so when you see our young people, particularly who’ve heard the stories of grandparents and great-grandparents, there’s a lot of concerns. And these are the same individuals that we have to get out to the polls in November.”

The war, which started in response to Hamas’s killing 1,200 Israelis and taking more than 200 hostages on Oct. 7, has so far killed more than 36,000 people in Gaza, according to health authorities there. The humanitarian conditions in Gaza have also grown dire, with most Palestinians there displaced and aid groups warning of a famine.

In its statement, the N.A.A.C.P. referred to recent events in which Israeli forces attacked a refugee camp in the densely populated southern Gaza city of Rafah that killed 45 people, including women and children, over Memorial Day weekend.

The group also called on Hamas to “return the hostages and stop all terrorist activity,” and on Israel to “commit to an offensive strategy that is aligned with international and humanitarian laws.”

“Our job is not to take a side in the war,” Mr. Johnson said. “Our job is to say civilians should not be harmed, and we need to de-escalate so that we could ensure that the rise of hate that’s taking place in this country would not be a part of what’s taking place globally.”

The organization said Mr. Biden’s announcement last week of a proposal to end the war with a cease-fire and a return of hostages fell short. The N.A.A.C.P. said the “proposal must clarify the consequences of continued violence.”

The White House did not respond to a request for comment.

The N.A.A.C.P. is nonpartisan but plays a critical role in mobilizing Black Americans to the polls, a crucial part of Mr. Biden’s win in 2020. It is also influential in the White House.

Mr. Biden has long held the group in high regard. Last month, he hosted its officials at the White House to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Supreme Court’s landmark Brown v. Board of Education decision, which outlawed school segregation. He also gave the keynote address at the organization’s annual dinner, where he was honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award.

Mr. Biden began his remarks at the dinner by saying, “My name is Joe Biden, and I’m a lifetime member of the N.A.A.C.P.” He said it was the first organization he ever joined.

“Let’s be clear,” he later said. “Because of your vote, it’s the only reason I’m standing here as president of the United States of America. Period.”



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