Jeop­ardy in a spot af­ter Beth­le­hem goof up

Con­tes­tant’s Pales­tine re­sponse on Jeop­ardy! deemed wrong

Gulf News - - Front Page -

Po­lit­i­cal con­tro­versy over the lo­ca­tion of the old­est church in Chris­tian­ity is threat­en­ing to overshadow what should be the pop­u­lar US game show Jeop­ardy’s finest mo­ment, a spe­cial all-star tour­na­ment that drew more than 50 mil­lion view­ers in four days.

The ques­tion about whether the Church of the Na­tiv­ity in Beth­le­hem is in the Pales­tine or Is­rael came dur­ing a reg­u­lar game on Fri­day. In rul­ing a com­peti­tor wrong for an­swer­ing that the church at the birth­place of Je­sus was in Pales­tine, and dock­ing her $200, Jeop­ardy’s judges sparked a storm.

“Jeop­ardy owes an apol­ogy for en­dors­ing Is­rael’s uni­ver­sally con­demned il­le­gal takeover of the Pales­tinian lands,” said Omar Bad­dar of the Arab Amer­i­can In­sti­tute.

The Jeop­ardy! cat­e­gory was “Where’s that Church?”

The clue, for $200 (Dh734.5), was about an an­cient basil­ica, “built in the 300s AD”, in the West Bank city of Beth­le­hem.

The an­swer that was deemed cor­rect on Fri­day’s episode has plunged the TV game show straight into crit­i­cism — and deep into the heart of de­bate on the Is­raeli-Pales­tinian con­flict.

Just af­ter host Alex Tre­bek read the prompt about the Church of the Na­tiv­ity, con­tes­tant Katie Nee­dle was first to buzz. Re­spond­ing in the show’s stan­dard ques­tion-as-an­swer for­mat, she said, “What is Pales­tine?”

But Tre­bek told Nee­dle, a re­tail su­per­vi­sor from Brook­lyn, that she was wrong.

Then con­tes­tant Jack McGuire buzzed in, say­ing, “What is Is­rael?”

“That’s it,” Tre­bek said, award­ing $200 to the tourism con­sul­tant from San An­to­nio, Texas.

While that to­tal made lit­tle dif­fer­ence — Nee­dle, who was al­ready in the lead, ended up win­ning the episode any­way — the an­swer be­hind it sparked a firestorm of con­tro­versy over the week­end, as prom­i­nent com­men­ta­tors and pro-Pales­tinian ac­tivists de­manded an apol­ogy from

Jeop­ardy! for mis­stat­ing the lo­ca­tion of the his­toric church.

“The Church of the Na­tiv­ity is in Beth­le­hem, which is Pales­tine, NOT Is­rael,” said Scott Roth, the pub­lisher of the pro­gres­sive Jewish web­site Mon­doweiss. “The woman an­swered Pales­tine and you ruled her wrong.”

“Un­ac­cept­able!!” Omar Bad­dar, deputy di­rec­tor of the Arab Amer­i­can In­sti­tute, wrote on Twit­ter. “Katie Nee­dle got the cor­rect an­swer & was robbed ... @Jeop­ardy owes an apol­ogy for en­dors­ing Is­rael’s uni­ver­sally-con­demned il­le­gal takeover of Pales­tinian lands.”

Af­ter the Six-Day War in 1967, Is­rael oc­cu­pied the West Bank and al­lowed Jewish colonists to move in. But Pales­tini­ans and much of the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity con­sider the area, in­clud­ing Beth­le­hem, to be il­le­gally oc­cu­pied Pales­tinian land.

World Her­itage Site

The Church of the Na­tiv­ity, con­sid­ered by many to be the birth­place of Je­sus, sits by a white-stoned square in the heart of Beth­le­hem near the Is­raeli wall that en­cir­cles the West Bank.

Unesco, which con­sid­ers the church to be a World Her­itage Site, lists it as one of three such lo­ca­tions in Pales­tine.

So for many of those who slammed Jeop­ardy! over the week­end, the trivia an­swer was more than, well, triv­ial. It was a com­men­tary, im­plicit or not, on Mid­dle East geopol­i­tics.

The Oslo Ac­cords of 1995 give con­trol over Beth­le­hem and the West Bank to the Pales­tinian Na­tional Author­ity, though that is com­pli­cated by Is­raeli colonies and mil­i­tary check­points. Un­der a his­toric ‘Sta­tus Quo’ agree­ment, the church and other holy sites near in the area must be jointly shared and pro­tected by var­i­ous Chris­tian de­nom­i­na­tions.

James Zogby, a Demo­cratic poll­ster and co-founder of the Arab Amer­i­can In­sti­tute, slammed the Jeop­ardy! episode as “an in­sult to his­tory, re­al­ity, [and] the thou­sands of op­pressed Pales­tini­ans of Beth­le­hem.”

Katie Nee­dle on Jeop­ardy! cor­rectly say­ing that the Church of the Na­tiv­ity is in Pales­tine.

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