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Rights body urges Biden to halt arms supply to Israel

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

The call by the National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People (NAACP) was a rare instance of an influential body taking a position on US foreign policy towards a country without a significant black population.

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

The NAACP urged Hamas to return the Israeli prisoners and called upon Israel to “commit to an offensive strategy that is aligned with international and humanitarian laws”.

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 organisations.

“It is imperative that the violence that has claimed so many civilian lives, immediately stop,” the organisation said in a statement.

The NAACP stance represents the latest warning sign that Biden may pay a price at the ballot box among Black voters on November 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 per cent of Black Americans believe US military aid to Israel should only be used for self-defence 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 say.

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

Biden said last week Israel had proposed a fresh Gaza ceasefire in exchange for the release of prisoners. He called on Hamas to agree to the new offer, saying it was the best way to end the conflict.

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

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 smartphones.

“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 Gaza crisis and the US campus protests against it, a Reuters/Ipsos poll found.

Published in Dawn, June 7th, 2024


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