Gary Lineker and the bigotry of the virtue-signallers

Lineker’s retweet of a call to ban Israel from football is a new low for the milquetoast muppet.

Brendan O'Neill

Brendan O'Neill
chief political writer

Topics Politics Sport UK World

Yesterday, Israeli footballer Sagiv Jehezkel was suspended by his club in Turkey and then arrested by Turkish cops. His crime? During a game on Saturday he held up his clenched fist, wrapped in a bandage, where he’d written the words: ‘100 days. 7/10.’ He was commemorating the Hamas pogrom of 7 October. He was using his football stardom to remind people of the Israeli hostages still in captivity. He was saying, in essence, Jewish lives matter. For this, his club, Antalyaspor, dumped him, and the police nabbed him. He is being investigated, said Turkey’s justice minister, for making an ‘ugly gesture’ that could incite ‘people to hatred and hostility’.

What have Britain’s showily virtuous footballers had to say about this grim act of Israelophobia? Our painfully right-on footballing clique who’ve been taking the knee and crying ‘Black Lives Matter!’ for the past three years – surely they have a view on this tyrannical assault on a footballer whose only offence was to show concern for the Jews still being held by the fascists of Hamas? Those managers and players who ostentatiously genuflected for George Floyd must be piping up for their colleague who merely spoke up for the vastly higher numbers of Israelis who were murdered and kidnapped by racists – right?

Nope. Not a word. Crickets. In fact, it’s worse than that. Gary Lineker, the king of preening football stars, the maestro of dispensing milquetoast views to the tragic middle classes of Twitter, did say something about Israeli football at the weekend. He retweeted the view that Israel should be banned from international games. He shared a tweet saying FIFA should ‘suspend Israel’s membership’ and ‘ban it from international tournaments’ until it ‘ends its grave violations of international law’. There you have it: as Turkey was booting out an Israeli footballer, Britain’s best-known virtue-signalling prick seemed to suggest that Israel as a whole should be booted out of football.

Behold the Turkey-Lineker alliance. The world’s weirdest pincer movement. On one side, the hotheads of an Islamist-ruled nation who cannot abide the sight of an Israeli sportsman criticising Hamas. And on the other, a pompous sports broadcaster wondering out loud if Israel should be shown the red card by the footballing establishment. As a footballer faces interrogation and damnation for showing solidarity with Israel, Britain’s self-styled guardian of sporting virtue ignites a furious online discussion about ridding football of Israel’s wicked presence. It is unforgivable.

Lineker’s retweet has caused a storm. He shared a comment from the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel, which cited the Palestinian Football Association’s view that FIFA should take ‘an urgent stance towards Israel’s grave violations of human rights’. So the Beeb’s top sports commentator is now openly promoting BDS bigotry. BDS, which stands for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions, is a nasty campaign beloved of the lazy bourgeoisie that singles out the world’s only Jewish state for the most severe forms of cultural and economic sanction. For a figurehead of the supposedly impartial BBC to push such a partisan and, in my view, prejudiced ideology is iffy in the extreme.

Let’s be clear about BDS: it is sectarian intolerance masquerading as social justice. It invites the middle classes – those most inclined to cultural boycotts – to obsessively avoid any foodstuff, book, idea or person that originates from the evil state of Israel. It makes a virtue of being ‘Israel-free’. Protect your pristine life and pristine self from the moral pollution of the Jewish State – that, in a nutshell, is what the cult of BDS says to the right-thinking sections of society. The fast track to moral glory in leafy, right-on Britain is to foreswear all things made by Those People.

The impact of BDS has been horrible. We’ve seen violinists booed and jeered at the Proms for the crime of being Israeli. Israeli dance troupes have faced furious protests in the UK. A theatre in London pulled the plug on a Jewish Film Festival. Authors like Alice Walker and Sally Rooney have declined requests for their books to be published in Israel (I guess that’s one upside of BDS for Israelis). Israeli produce is ostentatiously shunned and sometimes even destroyed. A few years ago, ‘pro-Palestine’ protesters in Birmingham stormed a Tesco and hurled Israeli food products on to the floor – proof of the irrational dread of all things Israeli that BDS stirs up in its supporters.

The hypocrisy of the BDS cult is extraordinary. These people will go to mad lengths to dodge oranges grown in Israel and films part-funded by the Israeli government, but they’ll happily buy their kids toys made in China and go on holiday in Turkey. The plight of the Uighurs and Kurds make not a dent in their conscience. The double standards of the BDS mentality can be glimpsed in Lineker himself. He retweets the suggestion that Israel should be kicked out of football yet he’s happy to watch Iran play football. In fact, he’s happy to commentate on Iran playing football.

During the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, Lineker anchored the England-Iran match for the BBC. This was at the precise time the Iranian authorities were slaughtering hundreds of their own citizens, young women and men, who had dared to rise up against the law of mandatory hijab-wearing and against theocratic tyranny more broadly. No red card for Iran? Why not? Is the killing of young Iranian women who want to show their hair in public less bothersome to the virtue-signallers than the killing of Gazan civilians in the Israel-Hamas war? Lineker’s cant should be treated with the contempt it deserves. This is a man happy to host matches from a misogynistic, homophobic regime (Qatar) featuring a nation that murders its own citizens (Iran), and yet he thinks Israel should be kicked out? What a tosser.

Banning Jewish film festivals, boycotting shops with links to the Jewish State, screaming in fury when a musician from the Jewish nation starts to play… does this remind Mr Lineker of anything? How striking that Lineker hears echoes of the 1930s in so many things – including in Suella Braverman’s comments about immigration – but not in this noisy, feverish boycotting of all Jewish State stuff. That he’s happy to swan around in Qatar, a nation that funds Hamas, the terror group that carried out the worst attack on the Jews since the Holocaust, and then get on his social-media soapbox about Israel is not only preposterous – it’s sick-making.

I would wager that many Brits with dual Israeli citizenship, or just British Jews who have an affinity with Israel, now feel even more isolated from the public broadcaster following Lineker’s promotion of BDS bigotry. Seriously, Gary – do you have no shame?

Brendan O’Neill is spiked’s chief political writer and host of the spiked podcast, The Brendan O’Neill Show. Subscribe to the podcast here. His new book – A Heretic’s Manifesto: Essays on the Unsayable – is available to order on Amazon UK and Amazon US now. And find Brendan on Instagram: @burntoakboy

Picture by: Getty.

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Topics Politics Sport UK World


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