Syrian Rebel Spokesman Resigns After Giving Interview to Israeli

The Army of Islam did not link the reassignment of its spokesman to the interview with Elizabeth Tsurkov of the Forum for Regional Thinking, but Tsurkov believes there is a connection.

Elizabeth Tsurkov
Courtesy

The resignation of Islam Alloush, the spokesman for the Army of Islam, one of the rebel groups fighting against the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad, was announced abruptly on Tuesday after he gave an interview to a researcher at an Israeli think tank. The interview received considerable coverage in the Arab world.

"I didn’t expect it to cause such problems for him," the researcher, Elizabeth Tsurkov, a research fellow at the Forum for Regional Thinking told Haaretz Wednesday, but she said he spoke to her knowing that she is Israeli and that his comments would be appearing in Hebrew. But granting the interview may have been seen as "having tarnished the reputation of the rebel group," she acknowledged.

In any event, she said, the Army of Islam denies the resignation is related to the interview, explaining it as part of a reorganization that would see Alloush assigned to another post, "but I do think it's connected," she added.

The Army of Islam, known in Arabic as Jaysh al-Islam, is a rebel group with an Islamist orientation. Tsurkov, who specializes in Syria, denied that Alloush spoke explicitly about peace with Israel in his interview with her, as has been reported in some Arab media outlets. When she asked him about the Army of Islam's stance on a peace treaty between Syria and Israel, he replied as follows, according to a Hebrew-language transcript on the Forum for Regional Thinking website:

"This topic and others relating to Syria's foreign policy will be decided by institutions of the country that will be established when the revolution is victorious and the Syrian people freely choose their representatives. We will not be the ones to deprive the Syrians of the decision, as the Al-Assad dynasty has done for more than 40 years."

When it comes to Alloush's resignation as spokesman, Tsurkov, who noted that she maintains contact with a large number of Syrians, told Haaretz: "I would like to believe I am not responsible for this."