Waiting at the Check Point (for the end of Zionism)

The security check isn’t the worst part. The security check itself, at least for internationals, feels innocuous, even reasonable. But the checkpoint is not about security, at least primarily; it is about waiting. The checkpoint is the place where you experience the Zionist entity’s lack of time for you, whether you are an international coming from the West Bank, a West Bank resident, an East Jerusalem resident, or a Palestinian with Israeli citizenship. There is no bypass line for Israeli citizens or internationals – and while this may be something good because such a line would only radicalize the apartheid situation, it also emphasizes the lack of respect Israel has for the the people in the West Bank generally.

The waiting is indeterminate; you don’t know how long you will wait. I’ve been through in ten minutes, in thirty minutes, in over an hour, and I know others for whom the line has been multiple hours. The procedure is slow – three at a time, airport style scanner and metal detector, everyone show their ID or passport, and their permission or visa is checked if applicable. When something goes awry, when the soldiers decide they need to make a problem for someone who tries to cross with a permission, everyone is looking at them. It is a place of highly focused attention, and yet boredom at the same time because everyone is waiting to be out of here, and some are more afraid than others that they will not pass at all.

The checkpoint could be built in a way that emphasizes security, a way that treats those who pass through as humans rather than problems. It would be slightly more expensive because it would have to be staffed at a level where the wait times were shorter and more predictable, and it would have to be built in a way that doesn’t make you feel you are in a cattle sorting machine. But I believe the principle reason it is not built or run that way is because of the racist ideology in this place – if you aren’t Jewish, you just aren’t worth spending money on here.

I’m starting to see that asking the question of whether Israel is a “democracy” is just the wrong question. Of course it has some characteristics of a democracy in the sense that there are elections, but it lacks the essential characteristic of democracy that is a universal concept of citizenship and religious equality – on those grounds it looks more like an apartheid state because it is set up to systematically favour one ethnic group over others. But I think it’s just much more useful to think of Israel as a Zionist country, a country where the ideology of Zionism dominates both the political system and all the state institutions. Of course there are slightly different versions of Zionism, so the political scene is not completely homogeneous, but the dominant principles of Zionism – that Jews should migrate to Palestine and that Jews should dominate over other peoples in the land of Palestine – are pursued by all political stripes.

I realized this after the Israeli president’s recent absurd move to give financial and moral support to a settler group which lives in a settlement illegal even by Israeli law. His proposed solution is rather than to tear down (or leave? this wasn’t even mentioned as a possibility) the houses on the private Palestinian land where they sit, instead to cut them into pieces and re-assemble them at another settlement, which although illegal by international law is legal by Israeli law. This will cost something like ten times what it would cost to tear down and rebuild the houses, and it’s unclear why the state is even obliged to do that – shouldn’t they hand the settler’s a bill for the demolition of their houses, the same as they hand Palestinians bills for the demolition of the houses that they had no choice but to build because they couldn’t get building permits to build on their own land?

The fact that the Israeli president would venture such extreme financial support for a group which exists to prevent the peace process from moving forward makes it clear that what dominates this country is not its democratic character, which implies equal rights and no racial supremacism, but Zionism – an ideology in which Jews are more valuable than other people, and therefore in which it makes sense to give massive financial support to groups colonizing private Palestinian land, while spending always as little as possible to pacify an Arab population.

In Israel, the Arabs are second class citizens because Zionism prescribes it that way. So long as Israel remains a Zionist country the question of whether it is a democracy or not simply misses the question.

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What’s wrong with “Compromise”?

Compromise does not motivate actors, or encourage them to become engaged. No one gets excited about incremental progress – that’s why activist politics is dominated by revolutionary ideologies, if people are going to commit their time to something, they want not just to remedy the thing that they detest, but overturn it and bring about a new era.

Finkelstein is right that BDS is secretly anti-zionist. Why shouldn’t it be? No international pro-Palestinian movement can sustain its own supporters if it kowtows to liberal zionism, and supports Israel’s supposed right to continue the dispossession of the refugees by military force.

There is a fundamental tension in the ground and application of all political revolutionary movements – they always intend a radical overcoming of the situation they turn their attention towards, but they almost always result in some kind of compromise, the old leaders negotiate with power that exists and the result is a kind of altering of the status quo just enough to pacify the majority of those who demand things are overturned, while not offending too much the old guard to the point where their protest creates total intransigence which inevitably spurs on radicalization of actions on the part of those who oppose the situation.

The apparently mutually exclusive truths are not mutually exclusive but emanations of different but equally real forms of temporality. The radical lives in the temporality of redemption – the historical error of the past must be undone by an overturning of the situation, not necessarily a return to an idyllic past, but an undoing of a crucial wrong from its root upward. The politician, the policy person, they live in the temporality of the eternal now – the time of endless hypocricy, of incremental improvement, of the necessity of evil, of the necessity of forgiveness not based in compensation or redemption but in forgetting.

Abu Iyad once said that what he feared the most was the prospect that treason would become policy and accepted by everyone as patriotism. This statement can be understood in the context of this difference between two experiences of time – when the time of redemption is replaced by the everyday time of normalization and the acceptance of hypocricy, a time underpinned most of all by the experiencing of forgetting and dismissing the past as irrelevant, and of the project of redemption as impossible. And it is impossible within that experience of time.

So we should not be surprised at all by yesterday’s article in the Jerusalem Post by a young Palestinian from Hebron, who claims that the quiet revolution in Palestine today is one of the youth increasingly de-politicized, increasingly un-committed to their right of return, and increasingly peaceful and secure in their belief that today Israel can no more kick them out of their homes than they can kick the Israelis into the sea (never mentioning the fact that Israeli house demolitions of Palestinian homes remain a regular occurrence – including the recent plan to destroy the entire community of Susya, a strange thing to overlook because it’s near Hebron where this Palestinian lives).

A common refrain you hear in the territories is “the good people die, the traitors stay alive, the young people forget”. And so is the way of compromise – not a new way forward, not a new Palestinian aspiration, but the absence of aspiration – the erosion of the Palestinian revolution, the acceptance of submission and unequal rights. We should see this process as part and parcel with the de-politicization process which has been so successful in North America over the past half century. A key question here is – does that mean that the way forward for Palestinian politics includes western style big-tent “occupy” politics, like Israel’s ‘social’ protests? And what would the relationship between “occupy” style politics, which is characterized by the lack of focus, cohesion, common goals, and traditional Palestinian revolutionary politics, characterized by a consensus on revolutionary anti-Zionism. Personally, I don’t believe that a goal-less grassroots politics, a politics which obscures the question about the Palestinian right to the homeland, the rights of refugees to return, which both effectively come down to the right of Palestinians to wrest political control from the Zionists on the land of Palestine. This is no longer a consensus amongst Palestinians, but because their de-politicization is a new rather than old phenomena, I doubt North-American methods for confronting it based on a common disillusionment could be effective.

Behind the Old City of Jerusalem, Reflections on Politically Motivated infrastructure

On the Eastern side of the Old City of Jerusalem you don’t find many people. There are a few churches, cemeteries, the mount of Olives and the Arab neighborhood of Silwan, but it is rural rather than downtown-it has very much the feel of being the “other side” of the city.

Along the valley that separates the Old City and Mount Moria from the hills behind it, you will find a string  of “national parks”. Olive groves, trails, historical sights, all conveniently linked together to make a tourist border around what is sometimes called the “holy basin”. And it is a very pleasant place to Western sensibilities – quite green, much of it lit with streetlights, good walking surfaces, relatively clear of trash. But as so many Israeli projects in East Jerusalem, the parks have a nefarious political purpose  – by encircling the old city they intend to prevent the division of Jerusalem and an eventual political settlement of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict by the creation of a Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital.

The strange thing is, despite knowing all of this, I feel more comfortable in the national park than in the adjacent Palestinian neighborhood. Walking towards Silwan, I turn back – I don’t want to be that tourist who walks into a contested area pretending not to know where I am. I feel extremely like a tourist here, even though if I were to say that to a police officer it would feel like lying.

At the same time, in places like this it’s where I often think about what this place could look like if Zionism came to an end – if the land were regained, and how if there were a secular democratic organization of peoples on this land, these trails could be enjoyed by everyone. Even today I see Palestinian youth using the trail as a convenient way to travel from the Muslim quarter of the old city, exiting by Lion’s gate, and walking back to Silwan – thereby avoiding the Southern Side of the old city dominated by the Israeli controlled and Palestinian no-go area of Al-Buraq (the “Western Wall”), which otherwise they would have to avoid by traversing the Jewish quarter and Zion gate – technically that would probably be legal, but certainly not a recommended walking route for Palestinians. Could this trail also be enjoyed in a Jerusalem without Colonization, without the domination of one people by another? Could the infrastructure which Israel has built for one purpose be suited to others? Looking at the built reality of apartheid in this way makes one feel a bit more hopeful – thinking perhaps of the way the East and West Berlin subway systems now function in seamless integration, maybe one day trains could again criss-cross this land for the benefit of all its people.

It may be only a dream, but sometimes when I look at the trains here, I imagine them, with their “Israel” logos crossed out, being used to carry the refugees home to Tel-Aviv.

Riding the “Apartheid” Train

Riding the new tram in Jerusalem shows any tourist with fresh eyes a picture of heart warming co-existence. Arabic and Hebrew spoken across the aisle from each other, liberal muslims sitting next to conservative Jews, and vice versa. Standing here in this air conditioned modernity as you are whisked from Damascus gate up Jaffa street into the heart of “West” Jerusalem, you wonder what people mean by “the conflict”, surely those still fighting are getting something wrong – why don’t they adopt the same peacefulness of this cross-community population?

But then, just maybe, you might realize that the “Arab-Israelis” sitting next to Jews on this innocuous piece of public transit may grandparents who lived next door to families expelled by Zionist militia, or who ran in fear of the massacres reported, or who were among the thousands expelled after the 48/49 war was completed. Their grandparents former neighbours and their children are not welcome to ride the Apartheid train – they either live in the West Bank and do not have the right to enter Jerusalem without a difficult to obtain permit, or they may live outside Palestine in an “Enemy Country”, i.e. a country which still refuses to legitimize their dispossession, thereby making it illegal and impossible for them to visit, let alone live, in Jerusalem – even if it is the place where they or their grandparents were born.

So the train is peaceful and normal, but deceptively normal. Truly speaking, it is an exercise in normalization; the appearance of normal life in a situation which is anything but normal. There is something perverse about a normality which pacifies ongoing occupation, ongoing dispossession, ongoing refugee status, and ongoing colonization of Palestinian land. I did not ride the train north from Damascus gate, but it follows a route similar to the Arab bus to Ramallah, so I know that it snakes through Jewish and Arab neighbourhoods in East Jerusalem (which Israel, in defiance of the world opposition against its annexation of Jordanian/Palestinian territory, refers to as “North Jerusalem”). These are apartheid communities – Jewish communities for Jews only, and Arab communities for Arabs only. And it is not “separate but equal”, because services for Arab communities in East Jerusalem are anything but equal – with inferior access to water, schools, electricity, roads, basically all public services for which they pay taxes.

But worse than all the material discrimination is perhaps the legal discrimination against non-Jewish East Jerusalem residents. Because their parents refused to accept Israeli citizenship in the early weeks following Israel’s invasion of the West Bank (in fear of retribution if Arab countries were to regain the territory), they do not have Israeli citizenship but instead something called “permanent residency”. Which should be called impermanent residency, because it can easily be lost if they are arrested for security concerns, or if they are caught living in any area outside of the (illegal) “Jerusalem Municipal Boundary”. A very visual representation of this blue-card reality is the crazy of building on the north side of Al-Quds road, the main road between Jerusalem and Ramallah, after you pass the Kalandia checkpoint. Dozens, if not hundreds of apartments are being built in this strip of land because prices in East Jerusalem proper have skyrocketed, and Palestinians can move here and retain their blue card status, which allows them to work in Jerusalem. Of course, once they move here, they will have to cross the checkpoint daily to get to work, adding anywhere between 30 and 90 minutes to their commute. But that’s just part of the system, in fact that’s the reason why prices will be lower in this area (if there were no checkpoint, it would simply be a neighbourhood in East Jerusalem, as its suburbs blur together with the suburbs of Ramallah).

So, it turns out you can learn quite a bit from riding the Apartheid train. But because of the nature of the occupation and the apartheid here, you can’t take the surface for the truth – you need to know something about history, about legal context, about what is behind the easy everyday normalization of the current situation. Israel is highly skilled at presenting a superficial image that turns tourists to its side, but anyone interested in searching a bit deeper will see that the side of truth and freedom do not reside with the Zionists, but with the Palestinian revolution – which affirms the values of indigenous rights, religious freedom, and secular democracy – as opposed to a religious democracy with no respect for the indigenous people, and which allots religious freedoms only after dispossessing the majority of Muslims and Christians of their homes and their right to live on their homeland. The situation is made more difficult, however, by the fact that the major Palestinian factions have abandoned the revolution and are more interested in maintaining their own power by supporting Israel’s normalization process, at least for the time being.

Moving beyond “moving beyond abstract solidarity”, or, A Reply to James Mensch

James Mensch argues that the paradox between national solidarity and universal solidarity is solved by recognizing the multiple solidarities in which we are already engaged:

 Our different situations of race, language, religion, and cultural preference involve us in differing networks of solidarity. These, unless artificially suppressed, provide a natural system of checks and balances within the solidarity that is based on the past. – James Mensch “Beyond Abstract Solidarity”

Mensch’s comments at first glance are sober and realistic, if overly liberal. It is true that recognizing the manifold ways that we already depend on co-operation and solidarity with different groups can act as a check on a singular form of solidarity taking over, moving towards extreme nationalism. It probably is true honest evaluation of the situation we find ourselves in can always act as a countermeasure to extremism. However, Mensch’s suggestions ignore an important possibility: what if the multiple solidarities one is already implicitly engaged in are largely immoral? What if the implicit shared projects one is participating in include racism, colonialism, imperialism, and the general oppression of the poor and the non-white? In that case, sobert reflection on the solidarities one is already engaged in might not result in an abrogation of extremism, but an affirmation of many small extremisms. And this isn’t an idle threat – it is common in liberal discourse to affirm imperialist positions as the only one’s available. For example, many treat the Guantanamo and drone strikes issue as a question about whether we should support illegal detention or illegal killings – as if doing neither were not an option.
Given the average everydayness of implicit involvement in immoral projects, the move beyond “abstract solidarity” should not only include reflection on implicit already existing solidarities, but actively practiced solidarities with the oppressed, with those that you are implicitly involved in the oppression of. Active practice means learning the history of, meeting with, and engaging in some kind of concrete activities to support worthwhile struggle – but not in a way that undermines locally based actions.
Mensch suggests that recognizing the solidarities we are already engaged in has little to do with altruism, as is in fact “a matter of self-interest”. But the self-interested hypocricy of support for the colonizer is exactly what moving beyond abstract solidarity should expunge – concrete solidarity for first-worlders wishing to undo their own hypocrisies is self interested only in the sense that we all have a self-interest in undoing and undermining the selfish basis for our own hypocrisies. Concrete solidarity often means opposing your own national interest and your own class interest in favour of a universal ideal that excludes you, or includes you only by the active fact of involvement in the struggle against your own background.
So instead of thinking of “moving beyond abstract solidarity” as a kind of passive reflection, we should think of it as active engagement in concrete solidarity work. What that can mean is varied, but what it can’t mean is a reflection on your situation which doesn’t actively set out to change your involvements, your relationships, and your projects.
Concrete solidarity which involves yourself in a struggle

Hiking in Palestine

This morning I awoke at 5am to meet a group of Palestinians that go hiking every Friday morning. I was invited by an NGO worker from Gaza who is in Ramallah for the weekend, evacuated due to the dangerous situation there. We took share taxis to Birzeit, and hiked to near Nabi Saleh. We were actually heading to Nabi Saleh, but we were stopped by soldiers because it is a closed military zone on fridays because of the protests there.

Hiking in Palestine was a wonderful experience. The land is beautiful, and it is not to hot if you rise early. However, by about 9 am the sun is very high in the sky and it is very hot, really the hours of 6-9am are the best time for hiking here in summer. You walk across very old ground – ground that has been worked for thousands of years. Everywhere you go you see evidence of ancient farmers – every hill is terraced, either completely or in some state of decay. As far as we could see, everywhere was olive trees. I’m not sure if anyone owns the olive trees, I’ve had conflicting reports from Palestinians about whether all the trees are owned individually or by villages, or perhaps not owned at all.

The hike ended with a pic-nic. Everyone brought something (we brought peaches), so on offer was an amazing spread of Palestinian food. And really Palestinian food, because out of the group of about 30 there were only 3 internationals.

I would have pictures to include, but unfortunately I don’t because my camera expired yesterday. I will start carrying around my big camera so you will still get pictures to look at, I promise.

Boredom: The Israeli perspective on the Palestinian Refugee Problem

“How many years before they are no longer refugees?”

is the wrong question. It’s a question asked from a perspective of privilege, it interprets time as clock time rather than the time of the dispossessed, which is an ek-static anticipatory awaiting for the redemptive moment. Israelis, because they have restored their empire, live in a fundamentally different experience of Time than Palestinians.

Fundamentalist Jews and Ultra-Zionists mimic the time of the dispossessed by wrongly asserting that their redemption arrives only with the complete expulsion of Arabs and the building of the “third temple”. They are the worst kind of oppressors because they use the logic of the oppressed and resistance to justify oppression against the oppressed.

But for the majority of Israelis, the occupation is “the most humanitarian occupation in the world”, it is the indefinite postponement of the “Palestinian statehood”, the prospect of which justifies the occupation and the continued expulsion of the refugees. The position of the Israeli is the one who waits for peace, because they offer peace – a bullshit peace, but peace nonetheless. And this is what all victorious armies do – offer a bullshit peace to a defeated people, and call it humane and merciful. And they believe their own rhetoric. So they wait, they don’t understand why Palestinians don’t accept it? Why do they keep proposing the statehood when they aren’t ready to give up East Jerusalem and all the good parts of the West Bank, which is obviously the pre-requisite to peace?

And so it goes… we wait, and while “nothing happens” the West Bank continues to be carved up by settlement expansion, Israeli agression continues to prompt Palestinian “terrorism”, and the Israeli people become bored with war, bored with peace, just bored.

And therefore, talking with them is rarely redemptive. They might have a great analysis of the situation. They might have truly dedicated themselves to trying to end the occupation. But when it comes down to it, they don’t experience the stress of the occupation, or the temporality of dispossession. They are bored, and revolutionaries are not made of boredom.

 

Apartheid. Seriously.

The Crime of Apartheid. 

I’ve gone to the trouble of bolding portions of the definition that most obviously apply to the persecution of the Palestinians in Israeli controlled territory.

International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid,
Article II[1]

For the purpose of the present Convention, the term ‘the crime of apartheid’, which shall include similar policies and practices of racial segregation and discrimination as practiced in southern Africa, shall apply to the following inhumane acts committed for the purpose of establishing and maintaining domination by one racial group of persons over any other racial group of persons and systematically oppressing them:

The existence of the state of Israel, which means the thing people are afraid of losing when they talk of the “destruction of Israel”, is a regime in which one racial/cultural group, the Jewish people, dominates systematically over any other group.

  1. Denial to a member or members of a racial group or groups of the right to life and liberty of person
    1. By murder of members of a racial group or groups;
    2. By the infliction upon the members of a racial group or groups of serious bodily or mental harm, by the infringement of their freedom or dignity, or by subjecting them to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment;
    3. By arbitrary arrest and illegal imprisonment of the members of a racial group or groups;
A. Murder of Palestinians is a daily occurance. Six yesterday, two the day before that. It passes without even a notice in Israeli newspapers. Settlers can even shoot at Palestinians with firearms as their army stands by and does nothing.
B. Imprisonment and torture of Palestinians is a daily occurrence. Jail causes serious bodily and mental harm to Palestinians, and infringes on their freedom and dignity to the point that some of them are forced to become spies and traitors to their own people.
C. Israel’s practice of administrative detention, currently opposed by the hunger strike movement, is arbitrary and illegal imprisonment.
 Deliberate imposition on a racial group or groups of living conditions calculated to cause its or their physical destruction in whole or in part;
The siege of Gaza is a calculated attempt to keep Palestinians on the brink of humanitarian disaster, and the massacre in Gaza was a calculated attempt to break the will of the people through the mass killing of civilians.
 
Any legislative measures and other measures calculated to prevent a racial group or groups from participation in the political, social, economic and cultural life of the country and the deliberate creation of conditions preventing the full development of such a group or groups, in particular by denying to members of a racial group or groups basic human rights and freedoms, including the right to work, the right to form recognised trade unions, the right to education, the right to leave and to return to their country, the right to a nationality, the right to freedom of movement and residence, the right to freedom of opinion and expression, and the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association;

It is illegal in Israel for Palestinians to discuss and teach their history in their own way – any institution that uses the term “Nakba” is in danger of losing state funding. Arabs in Israel can be accepted politically and culturally by the society on the condition of abandoning any kind of Palestinian nationalism. It is also illegal for Palestinians to fly their flag in the occupied Palestinian territory of East Jerusalem. The creation of the wall has denied many Palestinians the right to work in their home land. Israel’s laws about citizenship mean that Arab Israelis who visit family in “Enemy states” risk losing their citizenship. Palestinians are denied the right to return to their villages they were violently displaced from in 1948. Israeli policy in East Jerusalem denies many Palestinians the right to an education because there are not enough spots in the schools. The apartheid wall severely restricts Palestinians freedom of movement, even within the occupied 67 territories. Palestinians lack the right to free opinion and expression in Israel for the fear of being labelled a traitor or a terrorist and being subject to arbitrary detention.
Any measures including legislative measures, designed to divide the population along racial lines by the creation of separate reserves and ghettos for the members of a racial group or groups, the prohibition of mixed marriages among members of various racial groups, the expropriation of landed property belonging to a racial group or groups or to members thereof;
The state of Israel is the devision of the population along racial lines; principles of Zionism dictate that there should be separate Jewish labour, Jewish land, Jewish life. Palestinians are denied building permits in “Jewish” areas, even Palestinians with Israeli citizenship. Israel builds settlements in the occupied 67 territories solely for the benefit of Jews. And while mixed marriages are not strictly illegal, if a Jew living in the occupied 67 territories maries a Palestinian living in the occupied 67 territories, the Palestinian will not have the right to live in Israel, whereas if the same person marries anyone else in the world they will have the right to live together in Israel. The expropriation of Palestinian property is the basis of the Israeli state, in 1948 only 6.5% of the land had been purchased by the Zionists, the rest was expropriated by state laws which arbitrarily stole land from absentee landlords who had been violently expelled. This law was only used to expropriate land from Arabs, not from Jews. This law continues to be used in Israel today by settler movements to take more and more Palestinian land in an attempt to increase Jewish presence in Palestinian areas of religious significance to Jews.
Exploitation of the labour of the members of a racial group or groups, in particular by submitting them to forced labour;
While Israel is careful not to rely completely on Palestinian labour and imports many exploited labourers from the third world, many Palestinians continue to work in bad conditions for Israeli bosses and this is an expression of the racial inequality in the system. Most extreme are those Palestinians so poor that they have to work building settlements which steal their land. Also extreme is the use of illegal Palestinian labour by Israeli contractors, labourers who must sneak across the apartheid wall and risk arrest or injury in the crossing.
Persecution of organizations and persons, by depriving them of fundamental rights and freedoms, because they oppose apartheid.
All forms of resistance against apartheid in Israel are criminalized. Violent opposition to dispossession was never legitimized, even historically, by Israel in the Oslo agreement (as it was by Britain in the Good Friday agreement). Non-violent resistance is met constantly with flash grenades and tear gas. Known protestors, having committed no crime even by Israeli law, are regularly harassed, threatened, and arbitrarily detained by the army.
I’m not going to come out and say that the Israeli Palestinian conflict is simple – it clearly isn’t. But I do think that it is more simple than is commonly believed – the basic issue is the right of an indigenous people to self-determination on their territory, and the illegitimacy of the exclusion of an indigenous people from that territory by force of arms. That illegitimacy has been made clear by the history of the Palestinian revolution, which saw that the only way to oppose settler colonialism enforced by violence was to turn its own violence back towards it. However, today that illegitimacy is much more difficult to recognize, as the main Palestinian factions effectively support the right of Israel to exclude them from their homeland. At the same time, however, these factions can only maintain strong Palestinian support by keeping up the illusion that their way is the way to regain control of all their homeland. This is dishonest, both towards the Israelis they negotiate with, and the Palestinians they claim to represent.
The solution to the Israeli Palestinian conflict is not to resolve the tensions that currently exist, but to change the conversation by affirming the need for new principles and new key questions. Rather than ask “how can a Palestinian right of return be consistent with the principles of a Jewish state”, we should ask, “how can a Jewish minority in Israel/Palestine be protected and valued without the oppression of a dispossessed majority? Because Israelis won’t start this conversation, activists should, and we should reach out to Israelis willing to live in a single democratic state in which the idea of “strategic Jewish majority” would be recognized as racist and the ideals of Jewish strength and endurance can be actualized without the perversion they undergo by basing themselves on the oppression of another people. The return of the Palestinians to their homeland is needed not only for the well being of Palestinian refugees, but without it the Jewish people will only continue the Zionist road, the road that perverts their own heritage, which turns them into just one more colonialist exclusionary nationalism. 
Edit: Moriel Rothman has made my point more eloquently than I could have:
Jewish history has been transformed by Israeli policy from a rich, complex legacy of human suffering and triumph to a stale combination of archeological findings and Biblical quotes, wielded together as weapons against human beings who happen to not be Jews, to expel them from their homes and to strip them of their land and their dignity.