NAACP Joins Growing Chorus Demanding Biden Halt Arms Shipments to Israel

"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," said Derrick Johnson, the civil rights group's CEO.

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Citing Israel’s killing of over 36,000 Palestinians in Gaza and its defiance of a World Court order to stop attacking Rafah, the NAACP on Wednesday joined the hundreds of human rights and civil society organizations urging the Biden administration to halt weapons transfers to Israel.

The leading U.S. civil rights group noted Israel’s defiance of the International Court of Justice’s May 24 order to stop attacking the southern Gaza city of Rafah and the Israel Defense Force’s (IDF) May 26 bombing of a refugee encampment there that killed and wounded hundreds of Palestinians, including many women and children.

“The total death toll of Gazans has reached over 36,000 with another 81,000 injured,” the NAACP said. “Nearly 500 Palestinians in the West Bank, including 117 children, have also been killed.”

NAACP president and CEO Derrick Johnson acknowledged the “tragedy” of October 7, when an attack by Hamas-led militants left more than 1,100 Israelis and others dead – at least some of whom were killed by Israeli fire – and over 240 others taken as hostages.

“It is our hope that those with loved ones still in captivity are reunited as expeditiously as possible,” he said in a statement, adding that “Hamas must return the hostages and stop all terrorist activity.”

“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,” Johnson stressed. “The NAACP calls on President [Joe] 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 organizations.”

That red line has repeatedly shifted. In March, Biden agreed that any Israeli invasion of Rafah – where around 1.5 million Palestinians forcibly displaced from other parts of Gaza were sheltering alongside local residents at the time – would constitute a “red line.”

Last month, as Israeli forces invaded Rafah, Biden qualified his red line by saying it would only be crossed in the event of a “major” assault on the city. Israeli forces have blasted their way to the heart of the city since then, killing and wounding at least hundreds of civilians. More than 1 million people have fled Rafah, according to United Nations officials.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken then denied that Biden had drawn any red line in Rafah, tellingNBC News “Meet the Press” host Kristen Welker on May 12 that “we don’t talk about red lines when it comes to Israel.”

Democratic strategists are worried about Biden losing Black votes over his complicity in the Gaza carnage. Polling shows Biden’s support among Black Americans has dropped significantly since 2020, as it has among Muslim Americans and others concerned about Palestine. According to a Zeteo/Data for Progress survey published last month, a majority of Democratic voters of all races believe Israel is committing genocide in Gaza.

Citing an interview it conducted with Johnson, Reuters reported Thursday that “the NAACP’s decision to speak out was driven in part by young Black Americans horrified by the images of dead Palestinian civilians.”

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

The NAACP joins at least hundreds of other organizations calling on Biden to suspend U.S. arms shipments or military aid to Israel. More than 1,000 Black pastors representing hundreds of thousands of congregants from coast to coast have also demanded that Biden push Israel for a cease-fire.

On Tuesday, Bend the Arc: Jewish Action, a group that has not historically taken a stand on the Israel-Palestine issue, implored Biden to immediately “stop providing offensive weapons to the Israeli military.”

“Not acting on your own red lines, combined with the Israeli government’s promise to continue to violate them, will further erode your viability as a candidate in a race where every vote will matter,” asserted Jamie Beran, the group’s CEO.

Palestine defenders welcomed the NAACP’s call – even if it came so late.

“Glad to see NAACP and Derrick Johnson join our demand for Biden to halt all arms transfers to Israel,” said Mohammed Khader, policy manager at the U.S. Campaign for Palestinian Rights. “Israel is using U.S. weapons to commit grave atrocities in Gaza, including on Black/Afro-Palestinians. Hope to see more legacy institutions and other civil rights groups join us.”

Huwaida Arraf, a Palestinian American human rights attorney who co-organized and took part in the 2008 and 2010 Gaza Freedom Flotillas – the latter of which was attacked by Israeli forces, who killed 10 activists – lamented in a social media post that “the NAACP has been shamefully silent for [the] last eight months.”

But welcoming the group’s call to halt arms shipments, Arraf added that “this should be a stark message to Biden that support for Israel may hurt him among Black voters” come November.

Brett Wilkins is is staff writer for Common Dreams. Based in San Francisco, his work covers issues of social justice, human rights and war and peace. This originally appeared at CommonDreams and is reprinted with the author’s permission.