Palestinian Studies

2018 Workshop

Fredrik Meiton

Assistant Professor of World History, University of New Hampshire

The Non-Electrification of Nablus

This paper centers on the Palestinian Arab town of Nablus and the controversies over electrification that took place there in the years around the 1948 war. The Zionist-run and operated Palestine Electric Corporation held a monopolistic concession for the electrification of Palestine. As a result, the Palestinian community came to vie electrification as the handmaiden of Zionist conquest. “If Rutenberg electricity lights the city of Nablus and Tulkarm,” one Nabulsi writer warned in 1932, referring to the general manager of the PEC, “one can say that Rutenberg and his works have conquered the land.” That electricity was only available through a Zionist company presented the Palestinian community with a dilemma. Besides the imperative to reject Zionism and British colonial rule, many Palestinians also aspired to “be modern," which to most included access to electrical power and light. As this paper will show, using previously unused sources from the Israel Electric Corp. Archives and elsewhere, the struggle over electrification in Nablus – within the town and between the town and the PEC – both reflected and remade the political fault lines of the Palestinian community in ways that would bear heavily on the Arab Revolt, the 1948 War, and life under occupation.

Fredrik Meiton is an assistant professor of world history at the University of New Hampshire. He studies the intersection of politics, science and the environment, especially in the context of colonial development. He teaches courses in global and Middle Eastern history, often with a focus on science, technology, energy, and the environment. Meiton has a B.A. in history from Lund University, an M.Phil. in Middle East studies from St Antony’s College, Oxford, and a Ph.D. from New York University. Before taking up his position at UNH, he was a postdoctoral fellow in the Science in Human Culture Program and Department of History at Northwestern University. His work has appeared in several scholarly and popular publications, including Contemporary Studies in Society and HistoryPast & PresentArab Studies Journal, and The Routledge Handbook of the History of the Middle Eastern Mandates. His book, Electrical Palestine: Technocapitalist Statebuilding in British Palestine, is forthcoming with the University of California Press in 2018.