Exactly 50 years ago, in December 1967, I washed up in London, battered and bruised, after having been arrested, violently interrogated and briefly imprisoned by the bad old apartheid security police in Pretoria.
As advised separately by the head of chancery at the British embassy and my own lawyer, I took the first flight out of South Africa the following morning.
I have always felt a profound debt of gratitude to Britain. It did not roll out the red carpet but, rather impassively, it offered me a refuge and the opportunity to lead a normal life of anonymity, which is the blessing of a big city. No more. Like many other Jews, I no longer feel at ease in Britain.
Even British Jews, who have not experienced the sort of anti-Semitism that has visited their French cousins, have a highly developed sense of danger. The danger they now sense is Jeremy Corbyn, the unreconstructed counter-culture revolutionary who remains stuck in the Marxist mindset of the mid-Sixties. Since he became leader of Britain’s Labour Party, there has been an outpouring of unlimited hatred of Israel and a remarkable upsurge in antisemitism, a rare meeting point of the far Left and the far Right.
Corbyn’s growing strength is in contrast to the declining political fortunes of the Prime Minister, Theresa May, a committed friend of Israel and the Jewish community in Britain. Corbyn, resistant to compromise and conciliation, is happy to host Hezbollah and Hamas officials in Britain while flatly declining to visit Israel, or even to attend a dinner in London last month to celebrate the centenary of the Balfour Declaration, alongside May and the Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
What makes the issue rather urgent for Jews now is that, while Corbyn was regarded as a joke when first elected leader (80 per cent of the Parliamentary Labour Party declared their lack of confidence in him), he has been kept afloat by growing far-Left grassroots party support. As power seeps away from the Conservative government, the prospect of a Corbyn victory is becoming ever more real.
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