I know, I know. I really should have better things to do with my time. But I have been thinking a lot about Gary Lineker’s thought processes.
Last week the Match of the Day presenter reposted a call on X (Twitter, to you and me) by the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic & Cultural Boycott of Israel calling for…oh go on, guess.
Yes! You got it: a boycott of Israel. In this case, the demand is for Israel to be barred from tournaments and games “until it ends its grave violations of international law… particularly its apartheid rule and the crime of genocide it is perpetuating in Gaza”.
It seems that Mr Lineker – I’m sorry, it really should be Professor Lineker – is an expert not just in modern history (you will recall how last year he attempted to school Simon Schama in Jewish history) but also now, we learn, in international law. And not merely an expert – but so brilliant an expert that he feels compelled to share his views with the world, lest we be deprived of that expertise.
Annoyingly for him, there are other people – fake experts, obviously – who have spent their careers studying, teaching and writing about the issues Lineker posts about. And these people – the sheer cheek of it – point out that Lineker is talking out of his…well, you know what I mean.
Last March Britain’s leading public intellectual – for how else ought we to describe a man of his titanic gifts? – took it upon himself to explain antisemitism to Sir Simon Schama. Lineker had posted his disagreement with Suella Braverman’s reference to “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 responded: “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?”
Lineker upbraided the cheeky upstart who had had the temerity to question him: “Different point entirely. Doesn't make it a hate march.”
The previous December our intellectual hero had posted on the death in Nablus of Ahmed Daraghmeh, who was killed in a clash with Israeli soldiers. “How awful”, he wrote, while reposting a tweet accusing the IDF of taking Daragmeh’s life “treacherously". In fact Daraghmeh had died during an attack on Jews who had been visiting the site of Joseph’s tomb and was then mourned by Hamas as a mujahid – a fighter or warrior. But Lineker obviously knew better.
I had thought that his endorsement in November of a video conversation on the theme of “Israel is committing genocide” between Owen Jones and Raz Segal, the notorious academic whose response to the massacre was to write a piece for the Guardian telling its readers that “Israel must stop weaponising the Holocaust” was the lowest ‘Lineker could go when he posted that the video was “Worth 13 minutes of anyone’s time”.
Whereas, of course, the murder of 1200 Jews by Hamas, the rape of women and burning of babies – and the taking of 240 hostages – was clearly not worth ten seconds of Lineker’s time, because he had not spent even 10 seconds on a condemnation of that. Not a single second or word.
Which brings us to his latest contribution to world thought – and to the question of Lineker’s thought processes. Because what I can’t grasp is how a man who repeatedly reveals his own deep ignorance, and is repeatedly exposed as not having even a basic grasp of the points he tries to make, is so determined to carry on doing so. For one thing, anyone with that basic grasp of the facts understands that the BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) campaign is antisemitic to its core, by singling out the world’s only Jewish state, and only that Jewish state, for opprobrium and boycott.
I assume that Lineker is not an antisemite. So what explains his repeated assertion of points which are, by sheer coincidence, the points which antisemites make?
Ignorance, obviously. But also, I think, monumental arrogance. I say this because it surely takes jaw-dropping arrogance for it not to have dawned on Lineker that he is a breath taking hypocrite. Between 2009 and 2013 Lineker was paid £1.6 million by Al Jazeera for fronting its Champions League coverage. Who owns Al Jazeera, which is Hamas’s media mouthpiece? Qatar, which is both a funder and ally of Hamas. (Memorably, Lineker launched the BBC’s World Cup coverage last year with a diatribe against the host nation's record on human rights and migrant workers, as if it mattered not a jot they had paid him £1.6 million.)
But there is more to this, I think. There seems also to be a desire to humiliate the BBC, one of the hands which feed him (very well, to the tune of £1.3 million last year). The BBC suspended him last March, but then humiliatingly welcomed him back almost immediately with open arms and rewrote its own social media guidelines. Now Lineker pushes and pushes, as if trying to force another row, while a feeble BBC says and does nothing, pretending that because he is only a de facto rather than de jure face of the BBC – he is a freelance contributor rather than an employee – it’s all ok.
Well, it isn’t. Lineker’s obnoxious social media posts do not merely bring the BBC into disrepute when it looks away and does nothing. This latest endorsement of the deeply antisemitic BDS campaign makes his continued presence on the screens an affront to anyone who does not endorse Jew hate at its most basic.