First, the Guardian.The example I've chosen from today's edition isn't particularly malign; rather it's an example of condescending snottiness in an article that's otherwise harmless and quite insignificant - and that's why it's so significant.
Alex von Tunzelmann, a movie critic, fittingly chooses Christmas to ask how historically accurate Life of Brian is. She thinks it is; while I expect I know a bit more than she about that period, I'm not going to dispute her. Not because she's right, but because who cares? It was a fine film, with lots of good fun.
But her column does contain this disturbing paragraph:
As the film correctly hints, stoning was extremely popular with angry mobs. The Bible advises stoning for, among other offences, being a wizard, touching Mount Sinai while Moses receives the ten commandments, rebelling against your parents, or goring someone to death, if you are an ox. Further to this, stoning was often carried out summarily against traitors, and bad actors.Quite the barbarians, those ancient Judeans. Almost as bad as the Londoners of the 17th Century.
Well, no. Actually, compared with the those Londoners, the ancient Judeans were paragons of human rights. The Talmud, much of which was created in Judea just about the time Brian wasn't there, contains a long discussion about the death sentence. Essentially, while capital punishment was on the book for all sorts of things, the rules for applying it were so severe that it couldn't happen. Witnesses to a murder, for example, had to remember the shape of the leaves on the tree behind the scene else their testimony be rejected, the assailant had to be warned by at least two witnesses, in advance, that his action was a capital offense, and so on. A court that condemned anyone to death once in 70 years was referred to derogatorily as a "lethal court", and the sages then had a big argument about whether such a thing had ever happened or not.
Why besmirch the Londoners of the 17th century? It wasn't until the 20th that the English reached such a level of reluctance to use capital punishment, the French got there in the 1970s, and the Texans aren't there yet.
You would think no-one takes the Guardian seriously about anything, but you would be wrong. Many people actually do. This little tidbit demonstrates how deep (abysmal) the ignorance about Jews is over there; a fact that never stops them from pontificating, but also a demonstration of how deep seated their venom really is, that it's so easy to find even in a lightheaded holiday column about a lightheaded film.