The discussion on democracy ignores the fact that both modern and ancient worlds lacked democracies. Rather, all of them are democratically governed republics. The difference is that republics have a set of professed values substantially closed to democratic decision-making.
In Ancient Athens, the cult of Athena was non-negotiable, just as personal freedom is in America. A majority of American citizens cannot vote to enslave the black minority. Priests in antiquity and judges today enforce those values as they interpret them.
Republican values are not necessarily pan-human, nor it would make any sense for them to be so, as that would make all states discouragingly similar. The cult of Athena was no less parochial than Israel’s Jewishness. If that sounds antiquated, consider the cross on many countries’ flags, or the official Anglican church in England. Evolution made people comfortable with others of similar cultural background and uncomfortable with those of different values.
When no values exist, countries build them up quickly: the nihilist USSR rejected all the established Russian values and symbols, but developed new ones. Values are a sign of ownership of a society, just like name on a bag identifies its owner in an airport. When a fiftieth-generation Swede sees the cross on his country’s flag, he understands it is his country rather than a Muslim newcomer’s.
Symbolism is rarely neutral. As a Jew, I find it unimaginable to salute a flag, especially one with a cross. The German national anthem, which proclaims the cursed country above everything else, is more ridiculous in its arrogance than offensive; I wonder how deaf are the Jews in Germany to stand up to its music. The European weekend, a Christian symbol, is offensive and inconvenient for Muslims who need the day off on Friday.
Some minorities are made to put up with offensive symbolism: it is rather unlikely that Indian Muslims enjoy the Hindu swastika on their national flag. Eventually, liberal courts will strike down many of these symbols, which by now are hollow vestiges. Some, like national weekends, are unavoidable. Judicial activism will pose a different, bigger question: is not the majority entitled to live as it wishes? If the majority wants ethnic and religious symbols for its country, why should the courts reject this wish?
Parliaments and governments continually uphold majority values over those of minorities. A few rich are taxed to benefit the many poor, at least in theory. Legislation is passed to the benefit of the majority, and by majority vote. Most directly, a majority—or even the largest group—enforces its views on others in referenda. It is natural for any society to juggle the groups’ interests and prefer some to the detriment of others. It is hard to see a political difference between voting for subsidies which benefit farmers and national symbols which benefit Christians.
Many countries ban prostitution; why not ban Islam? One can stop being a prostitute, but conversion from Islam is similarly a matter of choice. In terms of pernicious moral influence, Islam is no less damaging than prostitution. Security risk from Islam is definitely stronger than from prostitution. Nothing in liberal doctrine prevents Israel from banishing her Muslims the way other countries ban and even jail prostitutes.
Why should symbols answer the majority? Almost all legislation is passed to benefit the largest interested group, not necessarily a majority. Jews—at least their conservative variety—may soon lose their majority status in Israel, but they can still uphold the fake Jewish symbol on our flag instead of the hoopoe bird.
States are best understood as franchises. The core group sets the franchise and welcomes newcomers who must accept the terms, and preferably pay a franchise fee. Newcomers can operate the franchise for personal gain, but cannot change it. In other words, they have personal but not political rights. To make the system less offensive, major political terms can be alienated from the core group as well, and enshrined in the constitution as unalterable.
Whatever the way, a country belongs to its core group. In Israel, that means Zionist settlers.