Iara Lee is a prolific human rights campaigner and filmmaker. Working with the Cultures of Resistance project, her movies document the struggles of oppressed people in every corner of the globe. For example, WANTOKS: Dance of Resilience in Melanesia – which won Best Short Documentary at the 2020 IFL Awards – charts the experiences of West Papuan citizens caught between violent occupation and the increasing threats of climate change.
This commitment to giving a voice to the silenced victims of government repression has inevitably seen Lee cover the actions of the Israeli state directed at Palestinians and those trying to supply them aid in some detail. As one of the surviving witnesses of attacks on the Mavi Mamara – a ship sailing to the blockaded Gaza strip, to provide humanitarian relief – she has even testified to the UN on the matter.
The following is a statement from Iara Lee and Cultures of Resistance on the unfolding horrors of the last two weeks in Palestine and Israel:
At Cultures of Resistance we have watched with heavy hearts as the horrific killing and abduction of Israeli civilians by Hamas militants is now being used to justify the collective punishment and mass killing of Palestinian civilians in Gaza. As the atrocities are compounded, we deeply believe that the only way to halt this cycle of violence and dehumanization is to end the occupation. We must respect the rights of all people to live in safety and dignity.
On 9 October 2023, Yoav Gallant, Israel’s Minister of Defense, stated: “We are imposing a complete siege on [Gaza]. No electricity, no food, no water, no fuel—everything is closed. We are fighting human animals, and we act accordingly.” As several leading human rights agencies in Palestine, including our allies at the Al Mezan Center for Human Rights, have noted, “This statement, that includes genocidal language, appears as an admission of intent to commit war crimes and other grave international crimes against the civilian population in the Gaza Strip.”
They further explain: “Gaza has a civilian population of over two million Palestinians, half of whom are children. Imposing a total closure of the Strip amounts to a collective punishment of an unprecedented scale, which cannot be justified either legally or morally.” Attacks on buildings and infrastructure in Gaza are resulting in the deaths of countless people who have nowhere to flee or find safe shelter.
We are now reaching out to groups on the ground who are providing food and medical aid in the midst of the massive humanitarian crisis that is unfolding. We urge you to join us in doing what you can to help protect innocent lives. Medical Aid to Palestinians (MAP) has issued an emergency appeal to ensure that hospitals have the medical resources they need right now. We will be updating the Cultures of Resistance Network website with further appeals and additional groups that are responding to the crisis. Please visit our website for more information as the situation develops.
In this time of mourning, it is essential that we reject calls for vengeance and demand respect for the basic human rights of all people. There is no other path to a sustainable peace with justice.
Iara Lee and the Cultures of Resistance team
More information on Iara Lee’s experiences on the Mavi Marmara can be found here.