Why Arab Americans should cheer Cheney’s election defeat
Liz Cheney on Tuesday lost the Wyoming Republican primary in a landslide to Republican rival and trial attorney Harriet Hageman, who was endorsed by former President Donald Trump. But Arab Americans need to look past that internal GOP war to see the true threat Cheney posed to Muslims and to Palestinian rights.
The daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney, she voted with Trump more than 90 percent of the time during his presidency. But that alliance collapsed after Trump lost the 2020 presidential election to Joe Biden. Cheney was among 10 Republican members of Congress who voted to impeach Trump after the election. She went on to co-chair the House probe into Trump’s alleged role in the violent Capitol Hill protests on Jan. 6, 2021.
But long before this episode unfolded, Cheney had already built up a hard-earned reputation as one of the more virulent anti-Arab and anti-Palestinian members of Congress. She used the Palestinians as a weapon to attack her Democratic foes, who ironically tried to help her reelection bid after she turned on Trump.
After she distanced herself from Trump, Cheney turned to Democrats and the American Israel Public Affairs Committee to try to shore up her reelection bid. AIPAC is a lobby group that has spent millions of dollars supporting candidates who strongly embrace its pro-Israel agenda, including Cheney.
During a meeting with AIPAC members this month, Cheney reiterated her support for Israel. Afterwards, she posted on Twitter: “I will never waver in my support for a strong US-Israel relationship and Israel’s right to defend herself.” With AIPAC's support, Cheney raised about $15 million for her reelection bid, compared to Hageman’s $4.4 million.
Former Republican Rep. Justin Amash, who is Palestinian American, last year accused Cheney of being a hypocrite, as she had four years to speak out against Trump’s policies but never did. Amash, who left the Republican Party in 2019, urged his former colleagues not to be taken in by her sudden and self-serving rhetoric criticizing Trump.
In 2011, Cheney denounced President Barack Obama for reaching out to the Islamic world in his 2009 Cairo speech. She accused Obama of “slandering the nation.” For a decade, Cheney’s assaults on Muslims and Palestinians intensified and she was often accused of fostering Islamophobia.
Cheney led many efforts to undermine support for the Palestinians in Congress, including pushing a letter signed by 109 Republican lawmakers in June 2020 that urged Israel to annex the West Bank. Israel ended up putting the planned annexation on hold permanently in order to win support for the Abraham Accords.
Some might ask why Cheney, who spoke out against Trump’s alleged role in orchestrating the Capitol Hill violence, seemingly never once questioned the actions of her own father’s role in lying about weapons of mass destruction to push America into invading Iraq in 2003.
While many Democrats, including Arabs, have sympathized with Cheney — forgetting about her father’s role in Iraq and her history of anti-Palestinian rhetoric — many saw through her hypocrisy.
Cheney built up a hard-earned reputation as one of the more virulent anti-Arab and anti-Palestinian members of Congress.
James Zogby, president of the Arab American Institute, wrote on Twitter in the hours before Cheney’s defeat, as she appealed to Democrats for last-minute support: “I might be a Dem outlier, but I can’t be rooting for #LizCheney. I dealt w/ her hard-boiled neocon nonsense during the post-9/11 & Iraq war period that brought disaster to many. & I debated her slanderous attacks after Obama’s Cairo speech. Her Trump vendetta doesn’t sway me.”
Abed Ayoub, legal director of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, similarly wrote on Twitter: “There will be many attempts tonight to make Liz Cheney look like the good guy. Some of this will come from Dems. She’s not a victim. Her hands are not clean. Standing up to Trump is commendable but she voted for his policies over 90% of the time. She’s no hero. She’s politicking.”
Arab Americans should not be swayed by Cheney’s hypocrisy. Her removal from office will not silence her Islamophobia or her anti-Palestinian voice. But it might help lower the volume of the anti-Palestinian rhetoric in Congress.
- Ray Hanania is an award-winning former Chicago City Hall political reporter and columnist. He can be reached on his personal website at www.Hanania.com. Twitter: @RayHanania