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What is controversy? Jeopardy! takes sides in Israeli-Palestinian conflict

A question about Bethlehem turned into a social media firestorm.
Credit: AP

CULVER CITY, Calif. — A $200 question Friday night plunged Jeopardy! into the heart of an ancient struggle that fuels hatred and bloodshed to this day.

The iconic trivia game show somehow meandered straight into the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The Washington Post reports it all started when the show’s long-time host delivered a seemingly simple answer in the "church" category: "Built in the 300s A.D., the church of the Nativity."

Contestant Katie Needle hit the buzzer and answered – “What is Palestine?”

Alex Trebek told her she was incorrect.

“What is Israel?,” contestant Jack McGuire chimed in.

“That’s it,” Trebek said.

According to the Post, the producers appeared to realize they had just planted the seeds of a giant controversy. During the next commercial break, $200 was added to Needle’s total and removed from McGuire’s.

That did nothing to extinguish the sparks of a social media firestorm.

“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,” Deputy Director Omar Baddar of the Arab American Institute tweeted.

“Could be one of my favorite Jeopardy moments of all time,” New York Post reporter Jon Levine tweeted.

Even Katie Needle joined the conversation in response to someone who said her answer was correct.

“Thanks! Palestine should be free [Palestinian flag emoji],” Needle tweeted.

In 1947, United Nations General Assembly resolution 181 divided British-ruled Palestine into a Jewish state and an Arab state. Bethlehem was part of Palestine.

When Israel was attacked by its Arab neighbors in 1967, the country occupied the West Bank and took control of the holy city.

In 1993, both sides signed the Oslo Accords. That would have put the area back under complete Palestinian control, but the agreement fell apart after the assassination of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin.

Today, the Palestinian government is based in the West Bank, but Israelis are still building settlements there.

Despite decades of fierce fighting and difficult negotiations, neither side can agree on what "peace" should look like on a map – so the conflict continues.

Credit: AP
The Israeli security barrier stands near The Walled Off Hotel where a new artwork dubbed "scar of Bethlehem" by artist Banksy is displayed in the West Bank city of Bethlehem, Sunday, Dec. 22, 2019. (AP Photo/Majdi Mohammed)

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