UPDATE: The Times of Israel today published an update to this story adding ten new victims to the two revealed in this post. Unfortunately, though understandably, none of the ten has been willing to come forward publicly. But the media outlet has authenticated their claims, bolstering the charges levelled first by Julia Salazar.
Today, the New York Daily News published a story declaring that New York State Senate candidate, Julia Salazar, had accused Netanyahu foreign press advisor, David Keyes, of raping her several years ago. Salazar, a Democratic Socialists of America members and BDS supporter is running for state senate in the Democratic primary against a member of the Old Guard. For many progressives, her campaign has echoed that of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who beat another Democratic Party machine stalwart in a bid for Congress. Salazar’s campaign has become far more complicated, with charges that she has tiptoed around the truth on a number of issues concerning her college record, her political conversion from college conservative to adult socialist, and Jewish religious identity (she converted to Judaism and claims to have come from a family of Marranos).
In 2016, an anonymous woman posted on Facebook charges against Keyes. She claimed that she’d been raped by him in 2013. The story was reported widely in Israeli media including in the Times of Israel:
The woman said in her later-deleted Facebook post that the two met after she wrote an article about Israel. Keyes, a former human rights activist, invited her to meet to discuss her piece, she said. After meeting for coffee, they went back to his apartment, where she said he tried to force himself on her, according to her account.
“I resisted, tried to laugh it off, tried to be polite. But he persisted. Repeatedly. In fact, I told him “No, I’d rather not,” at least a dozen times. Frankly, I was really uninterested in having any physical contact with this guy,” she wrote.
“Eventually, after I insisted on leaving his apartment repeatedly, he physically coerced me. After I submitted to him, he finally allowed me to leave. I remember going into the elevator and sobbing, and getting off before the ground floor so that I could wipe my face with a tissue, so the doorman wouldn’t embarrassingly see me leaving his building in tears so late at night.”
A activist who knows both Salazar and me contacted me. He did not tell me the identity of the victim. But he expected that The Intercept was about to run a story on the case. I asked him if he would reach out to her to see if she’d be willing to go public with her charges. In the end, she didn’t and The Intercept story never ran. I did as much digging as I could, but I could not find out any more about this case, so I left it alone.
Today, the Daily News made clear that Salazar had posted the Facebook charges two years ago, just as Keyes was being vetted for his Israeli government post. At the time, Keyes denied the charges, claiming the sex was consensual. He obtained his appointment as Bibi’s media advisor. He even claimed he’d taken a lie detector test to prove the veracity of his denials.
The TOI story also notes that Salazar said in her Facebook post that two other women had approached her with stories of experiences with Keyes which closely mirrored her own. And indeed, at least two women came forward today on Twitter to confirm either their own direct victimization by him; or charges that Keyes’ predatory behavior was widely known. Here is the victim’s tweet:
I also had a terrible encounter with David Keyes once and 100% believe her. I knew this would come out about him at some point. https://t.co/u9uo4pAlHh
— Shayndi Raice (@Shayndi) September 11, 2018
And here is the second woman who confirms that Keyes’ behavior was widely known in her social circles:
David Keyes’ status as a serial perpetrator is very much common knowledge. https://t.co/lXhcrstNBv
— Allison W. Good (@Allison_Good1) September 11, 2018
I have reached out to both of them and not heard a response.
There are many ironies here regarding Keyes and Netanyahu. The latter has a history of appointing cronies to senior positions in the prime minister’s office, who turn out to be either corrupt or sexual harassers. One major figure was Natan Eshel, then Bibi’s chief of staff, who harassed one poor female employee by pointing a camera under her desk up her skirt. He was fired and later appointed to a less conspicuous position (Bibi never forgets a friend in need). Another chief of staff, Avi Harow, engaged in a great deal of shady financial dealings which landed him in hot water. His get out of jail card free card was tape recordings he made (à la Omarosa) of Bibi colluding with a newspaper publisher to obtain favorable press coverage in return for suppressing the circulation of Israel’s leading newspaper (and pro-Netanyahu scandal sheet), Israel HaYom.
It remains to be seen whether more victims will come forward against Keyes. There will have to be more if Netanyahu is to be forced to take any action regarding his Boy Wonder. Sexual violence and abuse is still suppressed in Israel’s misogynist-macho society. While there is a #MeToo movement, it is nascent rather than dominant there. Powerful men regularly abuse women and, if they are caught, either get off completely or with a slap on the wrist. Even Netanyahu’s son, Yair, has become notorious in the Israeli media for attending strip shows in Tel Aviv with the son of a corporate executive whose company has enjoyed “fruitful” relations with the prime minister. Outside the strip club, Bibi’s son demanded that his fellow party-animal pay for their evening frolic since his father had derived so much financial benefit from his relationship with Netanyahu Sr.
Before the apologists in the comment threads point to former Pres. Moshe Katsav as their example that Israel takes sexual violence seriously; let’s remember that the state prosecutor originally refused to charge Katsav with rape. Instead he offered a plea to a lesser charge, which Katsav stubbornly refused. Only then was the prosecutor forced to charge him with rape, the crime of which he was ultimately found guilty. Had Katsav accepted the plea, he would’ve spent a relatively brief time in prison (even on the rape charge he only served five years).
The second irony is that Keyes wasn’t even the top candidate for the job, which had been vacated when Mark Regev was named Israeli ambassador to Britain (that position became vacant when the former ambassador was accused by how own Shin Bet security detail of inviting young boys to the ambassadorial residence for sex trysts). The original pick was a virulent settler activist and pseudo-academic, Ron Baratz. When it turned out that Baratz had slandered Pres. Obama, calling him an anti-Semite. He’d also complained that Israeli President Reuven Rivlin wasn’t important enough to kill. That’s when the poor man became a liability to big to bear. His candidacy was nixed, which brought Keyes into the picture.
Keyes didn’t bring much of note to his new job aside from being a protegé of Natan Sharansky, then Jewish Agency chief. The former had organized a few astroturf human rights groups whose primary mission was to advance the dubious proposition that support for Israel was a human rights imperative. In one interview, he even claimed that Israel has no political prisoners. Which would come as a shock to the thousands of Palestinians jailed for political offenses, not to mention the 300 Palestinian children incarcerated by Israel. Among Keyes’ other gambits were hosting a gay rights party at a hotel housing Saudi diplomats; and hounding the Iranian delegation to the P5+1 nuclear talks, asking the foreign minister who his favorite political prisoner was. He wrote about this escapade in a ‘delightful’ piece in the Daily Beast, I Punked Iran’s Nuclear Negotiators.
It was on the strength of this stellar record that Keyes got his new job.