Israel's role in Lebanon is not the hot button du jour.

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Syria's Army of Islam Faces Backlash After Comments on Israel

Eli Lake is a Bloomberg View columnist. He was the senior national security correspondent for the Daily Beast and covered national security and intelligence for the Washington Times, the New York Sun and UPI.
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It turns out that Bloomberg View is big in the Levant. Since I published an interview with Mohammed Alloush, the political leader of Syria's Army of Islam, a number of Arabic news outlets have attacked him as a pawn for Israel for saying that Syrian rebels don't want a war with the Jewish state.

The Syrian Arab News Agency, for example, ran a piece that claimed Alloush had revealed his secret ties to Israel. The Iranian-funded al-Alaam Arabic language news agency also disparaged Alloush, suggesting he was a traitor to his people.

There are a few points to be made about the backlash to last week's column. To start, this is what psychologists would call projection. It's the Syrian government that has invited Russia and Iran to bomb Syrian neighborhoods and villages. While it's true that Israel has from time to time bombed arms shipments headed to Hezbollah in Lebanon, this is not comparable to the destruction wrought by the real occupiers in Syria: Iran, Russia and Hezbollah.

Alloush in his interview last week made this point as well. He told me, "We hosted the Iraqis in our home; today they are sending volunteers to kill us." He also said that when Lebanon was attacked by Israel in 2006, Syrians opened up their homes to refugees. Today, he says Hezbollah is playing a major role in the war against the Syrian people. He said Iran has sent 10,000 fighters to Syria in the last year.

When you put it like that, is it any wonder that Alloush and other Syrian rebels are focused today on resisting the actual foreign occupiers in Syria as opposed to the Israelis, who have largely stayed out of the war?  

The second point worth making here is that Alloush has been smeared in these pieces as a terrorist in league with al Qaeda and the Islamic State. No serious expert on Syria credits this claim. It's the kind of propaganda we hear a lot from the Iranian, Russian and Syrian foreign ministries, and the news outlets that publish this line uncritically.

The reality is that Alloush's organization has fought against the Islamic State and opposes it today outside of Damascus. It was Syria's Air Force that for years left the Islamic State and al Qaeda franchise untouched as the regime focused its bombs on territory controlled by the more moderate opposition.

Finally, the pieces attacking Alloush also misrepresent the interview he gave to me. The stories defaming him this week have made it appear that he spoke only about Israel. In fact Alloush spent about an hour on the phone and discussed several issues in Syria, ranging from his views of U.S. diplomacy to the status of his fighters. At the end of the interview I asked him about Israel, and he said what he said. It was my choice to lead my column with his comments about not seeking war with Israel.

And evidently that portion of the interview was of keen interest to media outlets that stick up for Syria's tormentors.

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.

To contact the author of this story:
Eli Lake at elake1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story:
Philip Gray at philipgray@bloomberg.net