Did Obama influence the Holocaust Museum's Syria report?

Following complaints, US Holocaust museum re-evaluating study that defended Obama administration’s inaction on Syrian genocide.


President Barack Obama
President Barack Obama

The US Holocaust Memorial Museum will re-evaluate a study that said there was little the Obama administration could do to prevent genocide in Syria after removing the document from its website.

The Tablet online magazine, which obtained portions of the study, reported that it was met with “shock and harsh criticism by prominent Jewish communal leaders and thinkers.”

The paper, which was to be released officially on Sept. 11, argued that “a variety of factors, which were more or less fixed, made it very difficult from the beginning for the US government to take effective action to prevent atrocities in Syria, even compared with other challenging policy contexts.”

A message on the museum’s website said: “Last week the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum’s Simon-Skjodt Center for the Prevention of Genocide released a research study that examined several decision points during the Syrian conflict. Since its release, a number of people with whom we have worked closely on Syria since the conflict’s outbreak have expressed concerns with the study. The Museum has decided to remove the study from its website as we evaluate this feedback.”

The report used computational modeling and game theory methods, as well as interviews with experts and policymakers, to determine that US involvement in the wake of the 2013 chemical weapons attack in Ghouta would not have reduced atrocities in the country and may have contributed to them, according to Tablet.

President Bashar Assad has attacked with poison gas and sent to prison camps tens of thousands of Syrians since his country’s civil war began six years ago.

Abraham Foxman, the director of the Center of the Study of Anti-Semitism at the Museum of Jewish Heritage-A Living Memorial to the History, told Tablet that the museum leadership must have determined it “made a misstep” in undertaking the report, pointing out that the genocide has not yet ended and that such a judgment is beyond the museum’s mandate.

Foxman, who noted that he served three times on the Holocaust Commission, also said, “I believe that it’s appropriate — indeed, it’s imperative — for the museum to deal with questions of genocide in contemporary current events.”

Longstanding critics of Obama administration foreign policy noted on social media that at the end of his term, Barack Obama appointed to the Holocaust museum board a slew of White House staffers, including some involved in the Syria decisions, and questioned whether this influenced the study. Tablet pointed out that the study was launched before the appointments.

Some of the board members who had formerly worked for the Obama administration said they were not aware of details of the report until its completion. Holocaust museum board members are not typically involved in its day-to-day activities.

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