I recently returned from a wonderful trip to Israel. One of my overall impressions is that being in Israel really felt like being on the front line in the fight for liberal pluralism.
I know that may not be your image of Israel, but try this little experiment: Try Googling for images of the Israel Gay Pride Parade. You’ll find hundreds of photos like the one above of people freely organizing and expressing themselves. Then try finding photos for the Gay Pride Parade in Gaza, Damascus, or Tehran. You won’t be able to find them because there are no open Gay Pride Parades in any majority Muslim country other than Turkey (and if things keep going the way they are, there probably won’t be any such parades there in the future).
Yes, Israel contains illiberal elements — as does the U.S. or any other tolerant and diverse society. Yes, Israelis have to compromise their freedom more than people in other liberal societies, but that is part of the price they pay for being on the front line that we don’t have to pay. When our national security has been threatened in much less serious ways, the U.S. has sacrificed far more freedom.
Perhaps it is precisely because Israel is encircled by authoritarian enemies that the exercise of liberty there seems especially sweet.