I will close this article – and in truth, my act of bearing witness – by borrowing a phrase from John Mearsheimer: “the tragedy of great power.” The reality is that Israel, which has the fourth strongest army in the world and has a full arsenal of weapons of mass destruction, is a great power. As critical as the Holocaust was and still is in the rise of the entire edifice of human rights norms, Israel suffers the psychology of great power.
The real tragedy of great power is that it is fundamentally at odds with ethical conscientiousness and judgment. Don’t get me wrong, “great power” will consider normative values, will engage in moral discourses and will reflect upon ethics, but it is invariably and persistently self-indulgent and self-serving. Great power will idolize itself, and demand obedience from whoever falls within its sphere. It will reflect on ethics, but ultimately will always reach the conclusion that whatever it does or decides is indeed ethical, and that all who are less powerful must sublimate and praise its virtues. And the highest form of sublimation is obedience. The tragedy of Israel’s great power is that it has lost the ability to be restrained or proportionate. In other words, it has lost the self-critical insight and restraint needed for reasonableness.
I believe that the first principle of ethics is to pursue goodness and resist evil, but the second principle is to speak the truth of goodness and the shame of evil to great power. It is due time that we recognize that the critical premise of all moral acts is reasonableness, and that when great power acts unreasonably, great evil unfolds. Whatever the religion, nationality, ethnicity or race of this great power, the human suffering is always the same.