Dealing with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is controversial and full of pitfalls, as the producers of popular US game show “Jeopardy” discovered over the weekend.
The show, broadcast on NBC, has been under fire online after Friday night’s program initially identified a famous church in the West Bank city of Bethlehem as being in Israel and ruling the answer “Palestine” wrong.
The final question of the first round was “Where’s that Church?” with the clue stating: “Built in the 300s AD, the Church of the Nativity.” Contestants on Jeopardy are given clues that are answers, and they have to supply the question.
When contestant Katie Needle first responded “What is Palestine?” host Alex Trebek said that was wrong. Fellow contestant Jack McGuire then ventured “What is Israel?” and was awarded the points.
Could be one of my favorite Jeopardy moments of all time pic.twitter.com/2gpVLpDWlR
— Jon Levine (@LevineJonathan) January 11, 2020
After a commercial break, some viewers noticed that the show had quietly changed the point count to hand Needle the points for the question instead of McGuire.
The Church of the Nativity, where Jesus was born according to Christian belief, is in Bethlehem, south of Jerusalem, in an area that today is in a part of the West Bank fully controlled by the Palestinian Authority.
While Israel has maintained military control of the West Bank since seizing it from Jordanian control in 1967, it has never applied Israeli law to it or officially annexed it as part of the Jewish state. Bethlehem is populated by Palestinians and Israeli citizens are generally barred from traveling there.
While much of the international community considers the West Bank occupied Palestinian territory — Israel rejects that view and says the future of the territory is subject to future negotiations — a Palestinian state has not officially been established, and the answer to the question of where Bethlehem is located was always going to be sensitive, complex and politically charged.
Many social media users protested the show following the incident, including pro-Palestinian activists.
We would like to express our disappointment toward @Jeopardy for their blatant disregard for Palestinian sovereignty. As a game show that prides itself on facts, jeopardy failed to state that the Church of the Nativity is located in Bethlehem, Palestine — NOT in Israel. pic.twitter.com/xtp5hyQdJm
— SJP Chicago (@sjpchi) January 11, 2020
— Abed A. Ayoub (@aayoub) January 11, 2020
Hey @Jeopardy – the Church of Nativity is in Bethlehem, which is located in the West Bank which – under international law – is occupied by Israel.
The occupied land is also known, under international law, as the Occupied Palestinian Territories.
— Sana Saeed (@SanaSaeed) January 11, 2020
Unacceptable!! Bethlehem is in the Palestinian territories which Israel illegally occupies (Katie Needle got the correct answer & was robbed). @Jeopardy owes an apology for endorsing Israel's universally-condemned illegal takeover of Palestinian lands.pic.twitter.com/Ym99YziM4k
— Omar Baddar (@OmarBaddar) January 11, 2020