BROOKE GLADSTONE: Much of America's coverage this week sounded like this clip from Monday's Evening News on CBS.
DAN RATHER: Fighting terrorism on two fronts tonight. [SOUNDS OF COMBAT] Israel strikes back at the Palestinians. Retaliation for weekend suicide bomb attacks. Here in Afghanistan U.S. bombers aim at suspected hideouts of Osama bin Laden.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: Eric Umansky writes the Today's Papers column for Slate.com. Welcome to OTM.
ERIC UMANSKY: Thank you.
BROOKE GLADSTONE:We've just heard Dan Rather talking about fighting terrorism on two fronts tonight. The Israeli cause appears to have become our cause in much of the American media, or is that not true?
ERIC UMANSKY: I think there's a sense to which we, as Americans, and to be honest, not just the media, but we as Americans probably identify with the Israeli position more, and Israel certainly has taken advantage of that fact. Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's rhetoric has very consciously paralleled the rhetoric that President Bush has used. He's said we're going to have a war on terror. He said it's going to be a long war and a hard war. I mean it's all very much the same language.
BROOKE GLADSTONE:How would you contrast the, the difference in the coverage between the bombings in Israel that happened last summer in June, July and August and those that happened just last week?
ERIC UMANSKY: I think that there's been on some level implicitly more sympathy with Israel. It hasn't been any sort of wholesale support of Israel, and there's still skepticism. For example I read in the Times what was a very colorful description of the fact that a Palestinian kid on his way to school had been killed by one of the Israelis' missiles earlier this week. But at the same time, for example, a number of months ago regularly whenever there was a bombing the papers would run sort of the stats of the death tolls, and it was always that more Palestinians were killed, and they would note that. You just don't see that right now. The Washington Post on Monday had a headline that sort of speaks to all this. Keep in mind that Monday was the day after the last big attack. It was a news analysis, the headline of which was: Arafat Picks Words over Actions. Within about an hour after the Washington Post closed there was news breaking that Arafat had arrested about a hundred militants. Quickly there was word that those necessarily aren't the right militants and so forth, but nevertheless it was a pretty remarkable statement to make within 24 hours of a bombing - to say that Arafat essentially wasn't shaping up.
BROOKE GLADSTONE:Tim Russert raised the question is Yasser Arafat a terrorist? There have been a lot of other discussions about how long Arafat would last. Would these discussions have happened 6 months ago?
ERIC UMANSKY: Would they have been a major topic on the Sunday news shows and would you have statements like-- Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld where he essentially said that Arafat's days are numbered? No, I don't think you would have had that 6 months ago. I think you would have had much more concern about keeping in mind that Arafat is a-- still a major player in the peace process or what's left of it.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: How would you distinguish between the coverage of the suicide bombings in Israel on television and in the newspapers?
ERIC UMANSKY:Some of the headlines you see are the same kinds of things you'll see on the nightly news, you know, whether it's USA Today's Israel Announces a War on Terror or the Washington Post has something similar, but once you get into the meat of their coverage, you start seeing things that you don't see on the nightly news, and you certainly don't see on local coverage, and that's things like the Israeli Labor Party, which is a part of the coalition government actually considered or at least talked about leaving the government because it didn't agree with Sharon's harsh response.
BROOKE GLADSTONE:I think the most difficult question here to try and get a grip on is how much of this is a genuine reflection of the changing geo-political realities after 9/11 and how much of this is an emotional reaction to the fact that America's homeland was attacked?
ERIC UMANSKY: Well I mean I think the truth is, is that they're probably intertwined. It's pretty damn impossible not to be biased in these circumstances. [MUSIC UP AND UNDER]
BROOKE GLADSTONE: Well thank you very much.
ERIC UMANSKY: Thank you.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: Eric Umansky writes the Today's Papers column for Slate.com.