Leading civil rights group urges President Joe Biden to stop sending US weapons to Israel

America's oldest and largest civil rights organisation asks President 'to draw a red line' on Gaza war

US President Joe Biden speaks with president and chief executive of the NAACP Derrick Johnson at the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington. Reuters
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A leading civil rights organisation that advocates racial justice and the rights of black Americans has called on US President Joe Biden to “indefinitely” halt the shipment of weapons to Israel.

The National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People (NAACP), the nation's oldest and largest civil rights group, took a rare stance on a foreign policy issue on Thursday to say that the US must use its influence on Israel to secure a permanent ceasefire in Gaza.

“The NAACP calls on President Biden to draw the red line and indefinitely end the shipment of weapons and artillery to the state of Israel and other states that supply weapons to Hamas and other terrorist organisations,” the group said.

“It is imperative that the violence that has claimed so many civilian lives, immediately stop.”

The NAACP's position shows that Mr Biden's continued support for Israel in the eight-month-old war could cost him popularity among black Americans, a key voting bloc, as he seeks re-election.

More than 36,600 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza since Israel launched its retaliatory war following the Hamas attacks of October 7.

Much of the coastal enclave has been reduced to rubble, hunger is widespread and the majority of Palestinian residents have been displaced.

“As the nation's leading civil rights organisation, it is our responsibility to speak out in the face of injustice and work to hold our elected officials accountable for the promises they've made,” the NAACP said.

“Over the past months, we have been forced to bear witness to unspeakable violence, affecting innocent civilians, which is unacceptable.”

Black Americans have historically supported the Democratic Party. In 2020, black voters helped secure Mr Biden's win against Donald Trump, his presumed Republican rival this year.

An overwhelming majority – 92 per cent – of black people voted for Mr Biden that year.

Mr Biden, who was vice president to Barack Obama, the nation's first black president, ran on a promise to do more to address racism and discrimination in the US, and to address injustice everywhere.

His campaign stood in sharp contrast to that of Trump, who as president passed legislation to restrict immigration to the US and who has denigrated people of colour.

But recent polls show black voters as less enthusiastic about Mr Biden this time around.

In an Ipsos poll published in May, 62 per cent of black Americans said they were “absolutely certain to vote”, down from 74 per cent in 2020.

Another poll conducted by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in April found that 68 per cent of black Americans want the US to call for a permanent ceasefire in Gaza, and 59 per cent believe that conditions should be placed on American military aid to Israel.

In January, a coalition of more than 1,000 black religious leaders representing hundreds of thousands of congregants across the country called on Mr Biden to do more to secure a ceasefire in Gaza.

Black Americans are joined by progressives, Muslim and Arab Americans, who have been angry with Mr Biden's near full support for Israel, even as the Palestinian death toll continues to climb and as Israel continues military operations in Rafah – which the President had previously called a “red line”.

Last week, a survey conducted by the Arab American Institute found that 88 per cent of Arab Americans disapprove of Mr Biden's handling of the war.

The development comes as US Secretary of State Antony Blinken is set to travel to the Middle East next week in an effort to push through a ceasefire deal that Mr Biden announced late last month.

Updated: June 09, 2024, 9:15 PM