UK

British Palestinian ‘received death threats’ for advocating peace with Israel

Activist John Aziz said rhetoric between Palestinians and Israelis during the war in Gaza was becoming ‘irreconcilable’.

British Palestinian activist John Aziz speaking at a ‘No to Terror’ rally at Tavistock Square, central London
John Aziz British Palestinian activist John Aziz speaking at a ‘No to Terror’ rally at Tavistock Square, central London (Yui Mok/PA)

A British Palestinian activist said he has received death threats for advocating for peace with Israel, as he addressed a rally in support of returning Israeli hostages.

John Aziz said rhetoric between Palestinians and Israelis during the war in Gaza was becoming “irreconcilable” and that he had been disowned by a family member for his views.

Speaking in London’s Tavistock Square on Sunday afternoon at a “No to Terror” rally, Mr Aziz said heightened tensions could lead to “more terrorism and more destruction and death” and that peace had become a “controversial idea” for some.

Mr Aziz, 36, told the PA news agency: “I’ve received death threats and taunts of people calling me a traitor and people who I know disowning me.

“It’s a serious issue because there’s a lot of intimidation and there’s a sense that if you speak out for peace on this issue, then you’re somehow undermining the Palestinian cause.

“I don’t want to do that – I want there to be a successful, viable, contiguous Palestinian state where Palestinians can live in peace with their Israeli neighbours.”

Mr Aziz, who was born and raised in the UK, added: “I’m willing to speak to Israelis and spread the message of peace together, so that eventually maybe our governments will listen to each other.”

Mr Aziz said peace was the “most logical outcome” to the conflict: “People want their kids to grow up to be normal people and not fighting wars and killing each other.

“If governments get in the way of us having peace then ordinary people have to speak out like me.”

Many of those at the rally carried Israel flags and chants of “bring them home” were repeated as demonstrators demanded the hostages were released.

A survivor of the October 7 attacks on Israel by Hamas told the rally that he will “never be the same”.

Bar Vilker, who was an attendee at the Nova music festival, said he had lost friends and family in the attacks.

Addressing the crowd, Mr Vilker said: “On October 7, the life I so desperately love was almost cut short because of terrorism.

“I lost friends, family and any innocence left inside of me – I will never be the same.”

Hila Fakliro, who also attended the Nova festival, said she had lost six of her friends in the Hamas attacks.

Ms Fakliro told the rally: “We need to stand against terror. We need to stand against hate. We need to stand against Hamas.”

Mr Vilker said the two had been travelling around university campuses in the UK over the last week on behalf of the Union of Jewish Students and the Jewish Agency to “show Jewish students around the country that the future can be brighter”.

He added: “Just like I was able to become stronger after such a terrible event, if we as a community choose to seize this opportunity with two hands to make change correctly, we can show that there is no power stronger than the one of a strong united community.”

The rally was organised by the 7/10 Human Chain Project, which is one of the main organisers of such events that have taken place in the UK since October 7.