Walter Reich's Aug. 29 op-ed column, "A Matter and Museum of Conscience," was reckless in its characterization of the report prepared by the National Academy of Public Administration concerning the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum. He cites the report as vindication of his view that government manipulated the museum in two instances in which it was suggested that invitations be extended to foreign leaders -- one to attend the opening of the museum and the other to tour the institution.
Croatia's Franjo Tudjman was invited to the opening as the leader of a country with whom the United States had diplomatic relations. His repugnant writings did not negate the fact that he was the designated representative of Croatia. The decision to invite Yasser Arafat to the museum was controversial but not inappropriate given his role as chairman of the Palestinian Authority, with which both the United Staes and Israel were joined in Middle East peace initiatives.
The fact that Reich wouldn't have issued those invitations does not mean our government manipulated the museum. No such manipulation occurred, no such finding of manipulation appeared in the report and no such vindication of Reich's distorted opinion was rendered.
Reich's contention that "the report was mandated by Congress after the State Department tried for the second time to manipulate the museum as a diplomatic tool" is self-serving and baseless. The House Appropriations Committee, which has oversight responsibility for the museum, commissioned the report as part of the appropriation process and not as a result of the Tudjman and Arafat invitations.
While the report did not conclude that the museum had been used as a tool to achieve particular political purposes, it cautioned that it would be wrong were the museum ever used as such a tool. Furthermore, the report did not conclude that representatives of the State Department should not serve on the museum's board, only that such membership might not be appropriate if it causes conflict of interest.
Reich is wrong to represent the report as proof or, as he claims, vindication that his allegations of government manipulation were true. The report makes no such conclusion.
-- Harold Gershowitz
The writer is a former member of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Council and a former member of the museum's executive committee.