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Reputation, Credibility, and the Goldstone Report (B)

 Philip Heymann, Taylor Lane, and Lisa Brem  
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5 pages
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In 2008, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict escalated with Israel’s airstrikes and ground operations known as Operation Cast Lead. The UN Human Rights Council launched an investigation into Cast Lead, citing reports about the disproportionate nature of the casualties (14 Israelis compared to 1,166 Palestinians). Jewish South African jurist Richard Goldstone agreed to head up this investigation, officially known as the Fact-Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict.

The US and Israel protested the investigation, arguing that the Human Rights Council (and its predecessor, the Commission on Human Rights) had historically placed disproportionate scrutiny on Israeli military operations in Palestinian territories. Even through Israel refused to cooperate with the investigation, Goldstone continued the mission, producing a 574-page document that the press dubbed the "Goldstone Report."

This case study examines the chronology of the fact-finding mission and the decisions Goldstone made before, during, and after the publication of the Goldstone Report.  Students are asked to ponder how Goldstone could have navigated the landscape of competing truths and to what extent he should publicly defend his findings. This is a follow-up case to the "A" case and gives details about the actions Goldstone took in response to the public backlash.

Learning Objectives

  • Discuss a leader’s options, ethics, and the potential repercussions when undertaking highly controversial investigations.
  • Analyze how international law could or should play a role in international military conflicts.
  • Understand the objectives and precedents of the United Nations Human Rights Commission and assess the appropriate intervention into the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
  • Understand the points of view of various stakeholder groups, and discuss how best to balance state sovereignty, international impartiality, and human rights responsibilities of Israel, Palestine, and the United Nations.

Subjects Covered

International Law, Human Rights Investigations, Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, Leadership, United Nations


Geographic: Gaza Strip, Israel, United Nations

Event Start Date: 2008

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Additional Information

Conversation Starters: Case Studies for Curricular Reform

Between a Rock and a Very Hard Place: Leadership in International Conflict


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