I thought we had reached peak Gary Lineker. I was wrong

The football pundit seems obsessed with displaying his universe-bending ignorance


LONDON, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 14: Gary Lineker speaks during a pro-remain a rally rejecting the the Prime Minister's Brexit deal on November 14, 2018 in London, England. Anti-Brexit groups 'Best for Britain' and 'The People's Vote Campaign' are holding a joint rally tonight to call on MPs to say they are not buying the Prime Minister's Brexit deal. (Photo by Jack Taylor/Getty Images)

November 21, 2023 18:38

When it comes to grotesque displays of spectacular ignorance, I really thought we had seen peak Gary Lineker.

In March, the former England footballer turned Match of the Day host turned Regius Professor of Modern History (well, in his mind anyway) posted a tweet attacking the government over “an immeasurably cruel policy directed at the most vulnerable people in language that is not dissimilar to that used by Germany in the 30s…”.

Lineker was suspended, his football mates threw a wobbly, and the BBC caved in.

This wasn’t Lineker’s first go at sharing his profound ignorance with the world. In March it was in relation to 1930s Germany, but last December he posted on the death in Nablus of Ahmed Daraghmeh, who was killed in a clash with Israeli soldiers. “How awful”, he wrote, as well as retweeting a post accusing the IDF of taking Daragmeh’s life “treacherously".

What actually happened was that Daraghmeh had died during an attack on Jews who had been visiting the site of Joseph’s tomb. He was then mourned by Hamas as a mujahid – a fighter or warrior.  But heh, why let your total ignorance of the facts get in the way?

Call me naïve, but I really thought his next contribution to Socratic dialogue was the ultimate – by which I mean final – demonstration of Lineker’s universe-bending arrogance. After one of the hate marches through central London, Lineker decided to explain antisemitism to Sir Simon Schama.

Lineker had tweeted his disagreement with then then Home Secretary’s description of them as “hate marches”, writing: “Marching and calling for a ceasefire and peace so that more innocent children don't get killed is not really the definition of a hate march.”

Sir Simon replied: “Why would you have a ceasefire with terrorists (Hamas) whose leaders have explicitly said they want to do October 7 again and again until Israel is annihilated?”

You or I might retreat gracefully if we were told by one of the world’s leading experts on Jewish history that we were wrong. You or I might especially be inclined to do this if we had been repeatedly called out over our previous ignorance over, well, history. You or I might be really, really inclined to do this if our knowledge of Middle Eastern geopolitics is derived from having sold some crisps there.

But then you or I are not Gary Lineker, who chided Sir Simon for daring to take on his intellectual better: “Different point entirely. Doesn't make it a hate march.”

As I say, I really thought Lineker could plunge no greater depth of arrogant ignorance than asserting that Sir Simon Schama doesn’t understand Jew hate.

I was wrong.

This afternoon he endorsed a video conversation between Owen Jones, a Guardian columnist and social media presence who has spent the days since the October 7 massacre finding as many ways as possible to ramp up Israel hatred, and Raz Segal, a notorious academic whose response to the massacre was to write a piece for – guess! – the Guardian telling its readers that “Israel must stop weaponising the Holocaust.”  The video is a series of variations on the theme of “Israel is committing genocide.”

Others have already pulled apart the content of the video, but my focus is on Gary Lineker (well, it would be if he hadn’t blocked me from seeing his posts). Lineker posted that the video is “Worth 13 minutes of anyone’s time”.

Lineker said not a word when 1200 Jews were murdered by Hamas, when women were raped, babies burned and some 240 hostages taken. But he has not been silent, oh no. Once again, when it comes to finding ways to demonise and attack Israel, Lineker has been very keen to offer his thoughts. Having shared his expertise on antisemitism, now it’s international law and the meaning of genocide that he is considering for our benefit.

This would all be bad enough on its own. But it comes on the very day that it is reported that the BBC is perfectly happy with his tweeting and that he will be offered a new contract with the BBC.

When this war is over and Hamas is destroyed, the time will come for a considered appraisal of the multiple failings of the BBC’s news output and how it treated Hamas as being a more credible and reliable actor than the only democracy in the Middle East. But, as Lineker shows, the malaise goes far deeper than its news.

November 21, 2023 18:38

Want more from the JC?

To continue reading, we just need a few details...

Want more from
the JC?

To continue reading, we just
need a few details...

Get the best news and views from across the Jewish world Get subscriber-only offers from our partners Subscribe to get access to our e-paper and archive