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Something of a miniature conservative Civil War occurred earlier this month when conservative pundits Ben Shapiro and Candace Owens, both from The Daily Wire, had a very public clash over the Israel-Hamas war. The controversy appears to have started with comments Owens made about Israel’s retaliation against Gaza after Hamas operatives attacked, murdered, and kidnapped Israelis and foreigners on October 7. Owens compared the loss of life in Gaza to genocide and wrote on X on November 3, “No government anywhere has a right to commit a genocide, ever. There is no justification for a genocide. I can’t believe this even needs to be said or is even considered the least bit controversial to state.” The comment received criticism from other conservative pundits such as The Blaze’s Dave Rubin, who responded, “Well, as I’m sure you know Candace, the Palestinian population has 5x’d in a few decades. But thank you for taking a strong stand against Hamas’ stated genocide of the Jews, which is in their charter.”

Shapiro, who is Jewish and has been very vocal about his support of Israel after the attack, later responded to Owens’s comments on Israel and called them “disgraceful” when speaking at a forum. The comments surfaced on a video taken of Shapiro, where he does not appear to be aware of being filmed. The video was then shown by Tucker Carlson to Owens, who was appearing on his show on X. Owens responded to the comments as “ad-hominem attacks.” She stated that she and Shapiro had been on opposite sides of issues before, such as Shapiro’s support of masking and the COVID-19 vaccine during the 2020 pandemic. Later, Owens posted a Bible verse from the Sermon on the Mount on X, including the verse, “you cannot serve both God and money.” Shapiro responded to post, writing if “taking money from The Daily Wire somehow comes between you and God, by all means, quit.” Owens clapped back, writing, “You have been acting unprofessional and emotionally unhinged for weeks now. And we have all had to sit back and allow it and have all tried to exercise exceeding understanding for your raw emotion. But you cross a certain line when you come for scripture and read yourself into it.” 

The spat was heard around the world of conservatives, with many wondering if Owens’s days at the Daily Wire were numbered. Jeremy Boreing, CEO of the Daily Wire, weighed in on the controversy with his own post, saying that neither he nor Shapiro had the capacity to fire Owens. “But even if we could, we would not fire Candace because of another thing we have in common – a desire not to regulate the speech of our hosts, even when we disagree with them,” he added. 

However, even though Owens appears to still be at the Daily Wire for now, the spat highlights the growing splits amongst conservatives on how best to handle the Israel-Hamas war. Shapiro stands on one side, unabashedly supporting Israel, supporting financial aid, and calling for Hamas to be taken out completely. Owens, however, is much less keen on blanket aid and points to the loss of life in Gaza. Claims have been that over 13,000 people have died in Gaza, many being children, while 1200 Israelis were killed on October 7. Owens has also not been completely free of accusations of antisemitism either, having been closely connected with Kanye West and being criticized by Anthony Horowitz of the Anthony Horowitz Freedom Center for her take on the war. The divide on Israel amongst conservatives extends to the 2024 campaign, with Ron DeSantis calling out Donald Trump for statements he made against Israel just days after the October 7 attack. Shapiro has also criticized Tucker Carlson’s response as “pacifist.” Conservatives seem to be stuck between a full-fledged rebuttal and attack against Hamas versus a more nuanced approach that could save more lives in Gaza but may ultimately leave Hamas in power, and with the recent tentative ceasefire hanging in the balance, that uncertainty seems likely to continue. 

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