CMES Research Seminar: Atoms for Peace in the Middle East – Technology, Labor, and Peace in US Policy
Heba Taha (State University of New York, starting at Lund University in 2024) will be presenting a talk (online) on Atoms for Peace and US policy in the Middle East.
This research analyzes the Strauss-Eisenhower plan, an unrealized project that gained traction in US policy in the late 1960s. The plan followed the same logic as Atoms for Peace, launched in the 1950s, to share peaceful nuclear technology, as part of US diplomacy. It proposed building three nuclear reactors in the Middle East: two on the Israel-Egypt border, and one on the Israel-Jordan border, which would be used for the purposes of water desalination and electricity generation. By building and operating these nuclear reactors collectively, these two Arab states and Israel were expected to make peace.
The plan also included a return of Palestinian refugees who had been displaced after the Nakba in 1948. The architects of the plan embraced Zionist tropes of a ‘barren’ land, and suggested that through desalination, the land would then be made suitable to settle Palestinian refugees, ultimately reducing Palestinian dispossession to the apolitical issue of availability of fertile land. Palestinian refugees were invoked in the plan as a source of cheap and flexible labor, which was a key component in the project: they could be used to build the nuclear powerplants, pipelines, powerlines, reservoirs, and other related infrastructure. After the completion of the work, Palestinian refugees would then be ‘settled’ in a transformed landscape and expected to carry out agricultural work.
Relying on written records of the plan as well as the press in Arabic and Hebrew, Heba conceptualizes the Strauss-Eisenhower plan as a US-led capitalist utopia, interrogating how it deals with technology, labor, and peacemaking.
Hebatalla Taha is an Associate Senior Lecturer at Lund University's Centre for Advanced Middle Eastern Studies and the Department of Political Science. Her work lies at the intersection of political economy and security in the modern Middle East, particularly Israel/Palestine. Her doctoral work analyzes the role of Palestinians in Israeli capitalism, focusing on everyday encounters and non-conventional sites of contestation, such as high-tech firms and shopping centers.
More recently, she is researching nuclear histories and technologies in the Middle East, which has been published in Third World Quarterly, International Affairs, and Global Affairs. She is also an Affiliated Scholar at the Center for International Studies (CERI) at Sciences Po, where she collaborates with the Nuclear Knowledges research collective.
Heba will be holding the talk online and it will be live-streamed in the CMES seminar room. If you are not able to join us at CMES, there is an option to attend via Zoom. Please register here for Zoom attendance: https://lu-se.zoom.us/meeting/register/u5EkdOCqrTIiEt12RvAUFgPb7a3CUSj6…
This event is part of the CMES seminar series autumn 2023. For more information, visit the CMES website.
About the event
CMES seminar room (Finngatan 16) and on Zoom
All are welcome!
linda [dot] eitrem_holmgren [at] svet [dot] lu [dot] se