Israeli Jewish symbolism is far from unique. Scores of European states have crosses on their flags just like the Star of David is featured on Israel’s. European anthems glorify the core nation, its historical events, and its founders often no less strongly than Israel’s Hatikva speaks of a “Jewish soul.” In the real practice of European democracies—though not in liberal extremism—the national character of a state commonly coexists with the equal rights of all its citizens.

European states’ preference for their core ethnicity cannot be justified by the fact that their Muslims are newcomers and accepted the host state’s symbolism by immigration, whereas in Israel Muslims are natives. All citizens, regardless of their descent, have equal rights, including the right to identify with the state’s symbols. The act of immigration does not signal the Muslims’ acceptance of Christian symbols on a host country’s flag. Similarly, marriage does not signal that the groom accepts his bride as perfect; rather, he thinks that her advantages outweigh her blemishes, and hopes that her blemishes will go away—or at least opposes them passively. Muslim immigrants see many advantages to living in Norway, but the cross on its flag and the official status of Christianity is not one of them.

In Ancient Greece the problem was solved elegantly. The Athenians organized their city much like a gated community owned by its founders. Newcomers enjoyed all personal rights, but no political rights; they could not vote. The ancient model democracy was not a state of its residents, but of its core group. In such an arrangement it would be reasonable to charge an admittance fee whereby the immigrant joins national franchise and enjoys the infrastructure built by the ancestors of the others. The act of immigration signifies the acceptance of national symbols and political realities. Acting not only for himself but also on behalf of his children, the immigrant forfeits his right to political equality. In a sense, he is politically equal to the core group: he accepts the same symbols they do, and like them has no intention of changing those symbols. Both the core group and the immigrants are expected not to rebel against the state’s character. The difference is, the core group’s attitudes and intentions are long-established and predictable, whereas the society needs legal assurances from immigrants that they are content with their host country’s character.

Private apartment houses set their own rules. Tenants are welcome to accept them or choose another location. Immigrants exercise their liberal freedom by choosing a state acceptable to them and living there loyally. Once that free choice is exercised, they have no democratic right to subvert the host society. This can be likened to marriage: once a bride is chosen, the freedom of choice expires.

Not a few states continue the Athenian approach. The United Arab Emirates, a very liberal Muslim state and a major American ally, restricts citizenship to the descendants of local Bedouins only; Indians and Iranians who have lived there for generations are generally refused citizenship. Unlike Israel, the UAE has the guts to refuse citizenship even to those “aliens” who lived in its territory before the formation of the state. This highly restrictive policy causes no international outcry whatsoever, and there is no reason why Israel should provide citizenship to the Arabs who lived here before independence. The fact that those Arabs already have Israeli citizenship has little relevance. Jordan, another liberal Muslim country and American ally with a spotless record in the UN’s Human Rights Commission, stripped all Palestinians of Jordanian citizenship previously awarded them.

Even within democratic liberalism Israel has plenty of ways to attain her nationalistic goals, but she must act as normal countries do, rather than according to what marginal liberalism teaches.