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

21 Pages Posted: 31 Oct 2010

See all articles by Milena Sterio

Milena Sterio

Cleveland State University - Cleveland-Marshall College of Law

Date Written: October 29, 2010


On May 31, 2010, Israeli commandoes stormed an "activist" ship, sailing in a flotilla of ships which were carrying aid to the Gaza strip and transporting other activists to this region, which had been blockaded by Israel and Egypt since 2007. The activists were attempting to draw international support for Gaza, and to spark further condemnation of the Israeli blockade. In the raid, nine passengers were killed by the Israeli commandoes, dozens of activists were wounded, and several Israeli soldiers were shot. International reaction was swift: most countries condemned Israel, and even the U.S. President, Barak Obama, voiced "deep regret" over the raid. Accounts of what exactly happened on the morning of May 31 vary: Israel claimed that it had been the activists who fired first at Israeli soldiers, causing Israel to fire in self-defense, while activists claimed that it had been the Israeli commandoes which illegally boarded the activist ship and opened fire. What is undoubted is that Israel was involved in yet another international incident involving the Gaza, where its soldiers opened fire killing 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.

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 over Gaza, numerous ground assaults, causing the death of approximately 1,300 Palestinians, and the wounding of over 5000 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 appointed a United Nations Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict ("Goldstone Mission"), led by prominent international jurist Richard Goldstone, which issued a report in September 2009 (the "Goldstone Report"), concluding that both Israel and Hamas committed international law violations by indiscriminately targeting civilians. The Goldstone Report requested that the Security Council call on both Israel and Hamas to conduct investigations into war crimes allegations over the Gaza conflict; the Goldstone Report recommended that if such investigations were not undertaken, that the Security Council should refer the Gaza situation to the International Criminal Court ("ICC") Prosecutor. The Human Rights Council has accepted the Goldstone Report’s recommendations, and has called upon all parties to ensure their implementation.

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 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, in Part I, the history of Israel and its policy vis-à-vis the Gaza Strip. In Part II, this Article will briefly describe Operation Cast Lead, the events that preceded it, the actual warfare, and its aftermath. Part III of this Article will focus on international humanitarian law, and specifically, the violations thereof that have been alleged in Gaza. Part IV will describe the Goldstone Report, its main conclusions and the reasoning behind such conclusions. Ultimately, Part V will attempt to place the Goldstone Report in the larger context of international law, by analyzing its contributions to international humanitarian law, its reliance on the ICC, and its implications for foreign policy in the Middle East. This Article will conclude that the Goldstone Report, despite all the controversy surrounding it, represents nonetheless an invaluable contribution to the body of international law and to international relations in their application to the volatile Middle East region.

Keywords: international law, international humanitarian law, occupation law, Gaza, Israel, Justice Goldstone, criminal accountability

Suggested Citation

Sterio, Milena, The Gaza Strip: Israel, its Foreign Policy and the Goldstone Report (October 29, 2010). Case Western Reserve Journal of International Law, Forthcoming, Cleveland-Marshall Legal Studies Paper No. 10-199, Available at SSRN:

Milena Sterio (Contact Author)

Cleveland State University - Cleveland-Marshall College of Law ( email )

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Cleveland, OH 44115-2214
United States
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