Misrepresenting the Mitchell Report

Dear HonestReporting Member,

This week, several media stories misrepresented the recommendations of the Mitchell report regarding causes and solutions to the current conflict. Here is the background:

  1. Secretary of State Powell and Senator Mitchell sent a clear message: The first action recommended by the report is a cessation of violence. Period. Then establish a “cooling off period” and implement more than a dozen confidence-building measures, such as arresting Palestinian terrorists and freezing settlement activity. Powell kept repeating that first must come an unconditional stoppage of the violence. (See Powell’s quotations below in the Sample Letter.)
  2. Palestinians have distorted the Mitchell report, claiming that it is a total package, requiring Israel to immediately stop all settlement activity. (The Palestinian definition of “settlements” includes neighborhoods in Jerusalem built after 1967 such as Gilo, French Hill, Ramot, Neve Yaakov, etc.)

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Some reporters uncritically repeated the false Palestinian interpretation. Here are several examples. (If the link goes into 2 lines, paste both parts into your browser.)

  1. BBC’s Jeremy Cooke

    “The Palestinians insist that the commission’s recommendation for a freeze in all building activity in the Jewish settlements is key to the successful implementation of the report. But the Israelis are still adamant that existing Jewish settlements built on occupied Palestinian land must be allowed to expand. They also say it is wrong to link the settlements with the ongoing violence.”

  2. The Washington Post’s Lee Hockstader

    “Sharon repeated the long-standing Israeli insistence that a complete cease-fire must precede all talk of concessions… He also told U.S. officials that he would demand a ‘cooling-off period’ of two months after a cease-fire began before he would consent to such confidence-building gestures as halting settlement construction in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, as recommended by the Mitchell commission. Palestinians displayed a similar lack of flexibility.”

  3. Ibrahim Barzak wrote for the Associated Press

    “A key sticking point is Israeli construction in Jewish settlements in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The Mitchell Commission, as well as an Egyptian-Jordanian peace plan presented earlier this year, call for a construction freeze.” AP puts all the onus on Israeli settlements, making no mention of Mitchell’s primary emphasis, the end of violence.

  4. Chicago Tribune’s Hugh Dellio

    “…the Palestinians, blaming Israel for initiating the violence, demanded that Sharon’s government first implement all the elements of an international panel’s recommendations on how to reach a cease-fire, including a freeze in the expansion of Jewish settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories.”

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Further, the Chicago Tribune based its May 22 editorial on this mistaken interpretation: “Powell on Monday endorsed the report of a commission led by… Mitchell that calls on Israel to halt construction of Jewish settlements in occupied Arab land and urges Palestinians to halt terrorism.”

Considering that Israel has already called for a ceasefire, the Tribune’s call for anti-Israel action distorts the facts further: “The U.S. is going to have to exert leverage to halt the violence. And like it or not, the leverage it has is with the state of Israel, which gets $3 billion a year in U.S. aid.”

The Tribune admits that singling out Israel is “unfair.” But then the Tribune makes an immoral, unprincipled conclusion: “It’s the other side, the Palestinian side, that’s conducting diplomacy via terrorism. But you use influence where you possess it.”

The Tribune’s recommendation is comparable to ending the “Lend-Lease” program to England and Russia in World War II because Roosevelt had no influence over the Third Reich.

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If you believe these articles are biased, write the editor to complain. The most effective method is to use your own words. Otherwise, cut-and-paste the critique below. Please do not forward this page directly with HonestReporting’s comments.

Thank you for your ongoing involvement in the battle against media bias.


========== SAMPLE LETTER OF COMPLAINT ============


To the Editor,

Your coverage of the Mitchell Commission Report misrepresents the findings of the report. Contrary to your account, the Mitchell report does not call for Israel to immediately halt settlements in response to a Palestinian ceasefire. It calls for an unconditional end of violence FIRST, to be followed by negotiations on confidence-building measures.

Secretary of State Powell could not have been clearer when he stated on May 21: “Mitchell and the other committee members put the settlement issue in the context of confidence-building measures. It is not linked in any way to his earlier call for an immediate secession of hostilities… It’s a very clear sequence in my mind.”

Israel has accepted the call for an immediate ceasefire. Now is the time for the Palestinians to meet the Mitchell recommendations and stop the suicide bombers, the indiscriminating mortar fire, and the shootings at Israeli neighborhoods and motorists.

By misrepresenting the Mitchell report, you reward Palestinian violence and terror.



Thomas Friedman: “It Only Gets Worse”

Charles Krauthammer: “Land Without Peace: Why Arafat will not stop his war”

Newsday: “Israeli and Palestinian Violence: There’s No Moral Equivalency”