Julia Salazar, whose candidacy for New York State Senate has been mired in controversy, publicly accused Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s foreign media spokesman, David Keyes, on Tuesday of sexually assaulting her in 2013. Keyes denied the claims to Haaretz.
Salazar had made the charges earlier on Facebook in a post limited to her friends after Keyes was first appointed to his post in 2016, three years after the alleged incident took place. They were reported anonymously at the time in Israeli media. Keyes denied the accusations of his then-anonymous accuser, saying: “I completely deny the charge, there was absolutely no coercion in our encounter.”
She publicly renewed the accusations on Tuesday in a Twitter post. Salazar said she decide to take took the story public after being informed that it had been leaked to the media, tweeting that she had learned she was “about to be outed as a survivor of sexual assault” in what she said “appears to be an effort to cast doubt upon my, and other women’s accusations against Keyes.”
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On Tuesday evening, Keyes once against denied Salazar’s charges, telling Haaretz, “This false accusation is made by someone who has proven to be repeatedly dishonest about her own life. This is yet another example of her dishonesty.”
Salazar has faced questions over her representation of her political, financial, and religious background and has also faced a past accusation of theft which she denied.
Salazar's accusations were first published by Israel's Army Radio in 2016, which tweeted images of the posts she penned on Facebook without publishing the name of the account that posted them. The New York State Senate hopeful then deleted the posts, and eventually expunged the entire account.
Screenshots of the Facebook posts from Salazar’s account in 2016 were made available to Haaretz on Monday by a source who called themselves a “former friend” of the candidate.
In the deleted Facebook post, Salazar said she was not “physically attracted” to Keyes and when he made advances, “I resisted, tried to laugh it off, tried to be polite.” She said she told him ‘no, I’d rather not’ at least a dozen times.”
He proceeded to “physically coerce me,” she related, and after she “submitted” to him, he “finally allowed” her to leave. She said she left “sobbing” in the elevator and got off a floor above the lobby in order to wipe her face with a tissue, so the doorman “wouldn’t embarrassingly see me leaving his building in tears so late at night.”
In her tweeted statement Monday, Salazar said she had “spoken on background” with journalists about her experiences with Keyes in the past, as well as her claims that other women had contacted her with accusations against Keyes.
Salazar’s “former friend” told Haaretz that a story had been pursued by the website The Intercept, but was never published.
According to Israeli media reports published when Salazar made the charges, the alleged assault took place at Keyes' Manhattan apartment in November 2013, when Salazar was a student at Columbia University.
An article in the Times of Israel, which, like the other accounts in the Israeli media, did not name Salazar, described biographical details that matched those of the candidate, saying that she had studied Middle East history at Columbia, has belonged to Hillel and J Street and worked on campus with the World Zionist Organization, before changing her political views to the extent that she had been “arrested in August 2014 at a protest against Israel’s war with Hamas in the Gaza Strip and was barred by Israel from entering the West Bank via the Allenby crossing,” a story that she recounted on the Mondoweiss blog.
Before joining Netanyahu’s office, Keyes served as the head of Advancing Human Rights and was known as an online activist who supported and encouraged opposition activists in China, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Russia, Iran and other countries.
He also established the website CyberDissidents.org with the aim of helping to empower opposition movements and regime opponents in the Middle East.
Previously, he worked at the conservative Shalem Institute in Jerusalem, which is funded by Sheldon Adelson, the American casino mogul and owner of the Israel Hayom daily newspaper and the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.