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.