The Gaza Strip: Israel, Its Foreign Policy, and the Goldstone Report

By Sterio, Milena | Case Western Reserve Journal of International Law, Spring-Fall 2010 | Go to article overview

The Gaza Strip: Israel, Its Foreign Policy, and the Goldstone Report


Sterio, Milena, Case Western Reserve Journal of International Law


At the end of 2008, Israel launched a three-week military offensive in the Gaza Strip (Operation Cast Lead), during which Israel carried out over 2,360 air strikes and numerous ground assaults over Gaza, causing the death of approximately 1,300 Palestinians, and wounding over 5,000 individuals. The Gaza conflict sparked numerous allegations of war crimes and international humanitarian law violations by both Israel and Hamas. Thus, the Human Rights Council (HRC) appointed a U.N. Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict (Goldstone Mission) led by prominent international jurist Richard Goldstone. The Goldstone Mission issued the Goldstone Report in September 2009, concluding that both Israel and Hamas committed international law violations by indiscriminately targeting civilians. It is a fair assertion that the Goldstone Report was met by controversy. Israel and its most important allies, such as the United States, have condemned the Report and have questioned its veracity and authenticity. Arab states, as well as other, less Israel-friendly states, have hailed the Goldstone Report as an important international legal document shedding light on international humanitarian law violations committed by Israeli forces and calling into question the Israeli policy over Gaza. This Article will attempt to illuminate the above debate, by examining the history of Israel and its policy vis-a-vis the Gaza Strip, Operation Cast Lead itself and its aftermath, as well as the relevant provisions international humanitarian law as they apply to the Gaza Strip. This Article will conclude that the Goldstone Report, despite all the controversy surrounding it, nonetheless represents an invaluable contribution to international humanitarian law and to international relations in their application to the volatile Middle East region.

  I. INTRODUCTION
 II. ISRAEL AND GAZA: HISTORY, POLICY AND WAR
III. OPERATION CAST LEAD
 IV. INTERNATIONAL HUMANITARIAN LAW AND ITS APPLICABILITY TO GAZA
     A. Duty of Distinction or Discrimination
        1. Israeli failure to distinguish between civilian and
           non-civilian targets.
        2. Liberal rules of engagement
        3. Indiscriminate use of weapons
     B. The Principle of Proportionality
        1. Israeli use of illegal and/or indiscriminate weapons
        2. Overall death and destruction in Gaza.
 IV. THE GOLDSTONE REPORT: FACT-FINDING, CONCLUSIONS, RECOMMENDATIONS
  V. THE IMPORTANCE OF THE GOLDSTONE REPORT IN INTERNATIONAL LAW
 VI. CONCLUSION

I. INTRODUCTION

On May 31, 2010, Israeli commandoes stormed an "activist" ship, sailing in a flotilla of ships that were carrying aid and other activists to the Gaza Strip, which had been blockaded by Israel and Egypt since 2007. (1) The activists were attempting to draw international support for Gaza, and to spark further condemnation of the Israeli blockade. (2) In the raid, nine passengers were killed by the Israeli commandoes, dozens of activists were wounded, and several Israeli soldiers were shot. (3) International reaction was swift; most countries condemned Israel, and even the U.S. President, Barack Obama, voiced deep regret over the raid. (4) Accounts of what exactly happened on the morning of May 31 vary. Israel claimed that the activists fired first at Israeli soldiers, causing Israel to fire in self-defense, while activists claimed the Israeli commandoes illegally boarded the activist ship and opened fire. (5) What is undoubted is that Israel was involved in yet another international incident involving Gaza where its soldiers opened fire and killed several individuals. The May 31 incident fits into an existing paradigm of internationally questionable Israeli military policy over Gaza, and portrays Israel once again as the potential aggressor and occupier over the Gaza strip. (6)

In fact, at the end of 2008, Israel launched a three-week military offensive in the Gaza Strip (Operation Cast Lead), during which Israel carried out over 2,360 air strikes and numerous ground assaults over Gaza, causing the death of approximately 1,300 Palestinians, and wounding over 5,000 individuals. …

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