Media silence on Palestinian hunger strikers: Et tu, Amy Goodman?

Amy Goodman, host of Democracy Now! and revered idol of liberal America, has promoted herself as a journalist who “goes where the silence is.” It is unfortunate that Ms Goodman has not challenged mainstream media’s near total silence on the astonishing, deeply inspiring, and victorious Palestinian prisoners’ hunger strikes.

Most shamefully, Amy Goodman has only just today mentioned on her news show the 92-day strike of soccer player Mahmoud Sarsak—and still got it wrong:

A Palestinian soccer player from Gaza has agreed to end a three-month partial hunger strike in return for hospital care and an early release. [emphasis my own]

As readers of The Electronic Intifada well know, Sarsak had committed himself to a full hunger strike on 19 March 2012, after being held continuously in an Israeli prison with no charge, under its “Unlawful Combatants Law,” since July 2009. According to Amnesty International, Sarsak was the only prisoner held under the law, which allows Israel to hold prisoners “indefinitely unless they can prove they are not a threat to Israeli security.”

On 11 June, after 85 days striking and at immediate risk of death, Sarsak began drinking milk at his lawyers urging in hope that he might survive the few days until the Israeli high court scheduled hearing to review his case.  

After 80 days, Sarsak had lost 33 percent of his body weight.

As Dave Zirin has reported, Sarsak is a victim of Israel’s broad targeting of the Palestinian National Team, many of whom have been harassed, jailed or assassinated.

However, Goodman did not include any of these details. Instead, she decided to insert one, simple and completely false qualifying word to describe his hunger strike: partial.

By misrepresenting the hunger strike in this way, Goodman is not only discrediting herself as a reliable source of news on the Palestinian struggle for freedom of arbitrary detention, but is denying the sacrifice Sarsak was forced to make for his freedom. 

Sarsak chose to enter a hunger strike with the stakes as high as his life, health, and career because he believed it to be his only way out of a baseless—and potentially endless—detention, without charge or evidence presented to him.

Sarsak, a star member of the Palestinian national football team, will likely never be able to regain his physical strength and the athletic prowess he once held as a potential soccer champion as a consequence of the ravaging effects of the three-month hunger strike.

Those who follow the historically significant hunger strike within the Palestinian prisoner population celebrated when the hero Mahmoud Sarsak resumed eating and will be relieved if and when he is released on the scheduled date, 10 July. But we must also pay homage and respect to what he has had to sacrifice.  And we must demand accuracy in reporting from one who holds herself out as a beacon of such.




Hey, Charlotte, there are lots of things to criticize in Democracy Now's coverage of Palestine, but I don't really think her use of the word "partial" in this case is one of them. After all, as you note, he was taking milk - infused with vitamins, according to some reports, citing his lawyer - for the last six days of the hunger strike. The AP yesterday quoted the lawyer saying that Sarsak had gained 11 pounds since then.

Under those circumstances, unless you want to argue that the lawyer is lying or being misquoted, I don't think you have a good case that "partial" is a "completely false" qualifier.

None of this is to take anything away from Sarsak's heroism. Nor, as I said, is it to pretend that DN's coverage of Palestine is what it should be. I just don't think it makes sense to make a fuss about the wording they used, given the apparent facts of the case.


First, I am in total agreement with what the author says about Amy Goodman's mistake. I also agree that it is not becoming of Ms Goodman ignore these hunger strikes for as long as 'democracy now' has.

But the tone of this article is ridiculous. Amy Goodman is an excellent journalist who by and large gives far more space to the Palestinian cause than virtually any other news organisation I can think of. she has not sold out, she has not - far as we know -furthering another agenda, the maybe 100 reasons why she said what she said - and Charlotte Silver in this case has jumped to what may be totally unwarranted conclusions.

Charlotte Silver could approach this more calmly and more sensibly and it would not have risked (1) alienating a friendly voice like Democracy Now, nor (2) playing into the hands of the people who criticise electronic intifada as being totally reactionary under any and all circumstances.

Charlotte Silver should do some more actual journalism – find out why 'Democracy Now' didn't cover the hunger strikes in more depth and ask Amy Goodman why she said what she said. And she should be prepared to apologise to Ms Goodman on behalf of electronic intifada if it turns out that there is a perfectly reasonable or understandable logic behind these events.


So why not contact her with your complaint and let her respond? She might even invite you on her show.


American so-called liberal journalists esp. connected to NPR are afraid of touching the sacred cows such as Israel, 9-11 truth, the 1% etc. Especially since former Senator Bob Dole timidly threatened their precious funding some years ago. I have long ago stopped listening to these people

Charlotte Silver's picture


There are two issues that Ben and Henry bring up. One is the accuracy of the term “partial” and the other is my choice to write a blog post on this apparently small item of news on DN.    First, the use of the word partial. A “partial hunger strike” could refer to many things, but is typically used to describe hunger strikes that are limited to only eating certain types of food (i.e. liquids) or only eating at certain times of the day, etc. If Mahmoud Sarsak had been drinking milk for the entirety of the strike, it would be accurate to describe his strike as partial. However, that was not the case, as I have already written in my post on the circumstances under which Sarsak began to consume milk.    As for making a ‘fuss’ about it: to be honest I was infuriated when I heard her say partial and I continue to be furious when I think about how inaccurate it is. Obviously, my reaction has a broader context which is disappointment over DN’s coverage of Palestine and in general the American, liberal media’s neglect of the hunger strikers. The ongoing hunger strikes have been without a doubt the most important and profound development in Palestine that I have witnessed and I do not believe that has been accurately transmitted to Americans, even the best-intentioned of us.   


Charlotte Silver's picture


I am not sure what conclusions I make that you are referring I “jumped to”. My post pointed out what I believed to be an egregious error on the show because I wish to hold Goodman and DN to a high standard of accuracy. If doing so “alienates DN”, as you suggest it might, than what does that say about Amy Goodman and her show? I do appreciate DN, and trust—and hope—that Goodman and producers of the show would not be alienated by a critique.     

You jumped to these conclusions:

"Goodman is not only discrediting herself as a reliable source of news on the Palestinian struggle for freedom of arbitrary detention, but is denying the sacrifice Sarsak was forced to make for his freedom."

... and both the title and the judgemental tone of the article suggest that Goodman was acting deliberately (particularly the title as it suggests that she is acting in the same way as the mainstream media).

I agree with your assessment of the problem with the term 'partial' - but your article presents no evidence to suggest that this was necessarily a deliberate effort to mislead and you have expended no effort to find out. Given DN's record I suggest that Goodman deserves better.

Yes it is alienating. Because it is not just a critique it is, ironically, a misrepresentation. You have implied that she is no better than any other journalist, which, I submit is both false and unfair.

Instead, you should investigate the reasons why she said this - find out if she is prepared to clarify the position - and reserve judgement.


Arguing about whether or not the word "partial" could somehow be deemed an appropriate description of a 92 day hunger strike where milk was taken at the tail end to prevent possible death or demanding that Charlotte Silver open private correspondence with Amy Goodman and DN staff writers to exhaust all possible avenues of justification for the choice to add the term partial, misses the point.

Henry, you are being like Donny, who, in turn, is like a child who wanders into a conversation with no frame of reference. The lawyer's comment is not the issue here, man!

Ben, if you are going to pull the calm-down-woman-you-are-being-histerical-and-i-cannot-understand-what-you-are-saying, at least refrain from adding your own dramatic conclusions to what Charlotte says. Ms. Silver is not suggesting that DN went to great lengths to deliberately misinform the public about Mr. Sarsak's hunger strike, just that they put in no effort at all to inform us about the scope and historical significance of what Sarsak and other detainees are accomplishing through this form of non violent resistance.


Who's Donny?



You have misrepresented my argument. I did not say her article was hysterical. Nor did I say I that I did not (nor could not) understand what she was saying. I could and I did.

I said the (1) title and tone of the article offered a misleading representation of DN (2) she jumped to conclusions and (3) such misrepresentations could have been avoided (or alternatively her inferences could have been confirmed) had Charlotte Sliver bothered to do any kind of investigation.

But she did not and as a result I think the article was flawed. However, I don't think that is evidence of hysteria and, in my comment, I did not say it was.

Further, I have not missed the point. Instead, I have written to Amy Goodman because, as I said, I think Charlotte Silver was right about the term 'partial'.

But I also think ranting is not the same as journalism and I think this article was sub-par in comparison to Charlotte Silver's and EI's usual contributions. That is all.


If Amy Goodman had covered this every day for the last three months, it still wouldn't have reached most of the American public. Your complaints are throwing toys in the liberal sandbox. Why not save the criticism for CNN and the major networks? Having spent the last two days attempting to raise awareness of what is going on in a voter's own neighborhood with their own state representative, I'm beginning to wonder if we shouldn't just elect Kim Kardasian President and abandon any pretense that an engaged public still exists. It is becoming incredibly hard to communicate anything serious. At least in SC we're approaching the point where trying harder isn't going to be an option since everyone we have here has either already given up or is exhausted. People are working themselves to death down here and nobody every hears about it or cares.

Charlotte Silver

Charlotte Silver's picture

Charlotte Silver is an independent journalist and regular writer for The Electronic Intifada. She is based in Oakland, California and has reported from Palestine since 2010. Follow her on Twitter @CharESilver.