Netanyahu’s new spokesman denies sexual assault allegation
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Netanyahu’s new spokesman denies sexual assault allegation

Woman charges on Facebook that David Keyes forced himself upon her in New York in 2013, later erases post; NYPD says no complaints received against Keyes

David Keyes, executive director of Advancing Human Rights (Courtesy)
David Keyes, executive director of Advancing Human Rights (Courtesy)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s newly appointed spokesman was accused Tuesday of sexual assault by an alleged victim who posted her claims on Facebook before quickly erasing them. The spokesman, American-born David Keyes, denied the allegation, Netanyahu’s office said.

Keyes was appointed Netanyahu’s new foreign media adviser and spokesperson last month, replacing Mark Regev, who was dispatched as Israel’s ambassador in London.

The woman, who has not been named in media reports, alleged that Keyes sexually assaulted her in his Manhattan apartment in November 2013, Army Radio reported. She also claimed that since announcing the charge on Facebook, two other women had turned to her with similar accusations, the radio report said.

The woman, a BDS supporter, was one of nine Jewish protesters arrested at a protest in New York City against Israel’s war with Hamas in 2014, and was barred from entering Israel from the West Bank soon after.

The New York City Police Department told The Times of Israel it had not received any complaints against Keyes.

“This man, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu’s new spokesperson, is an American who sexually assaults women – and I’m here to tell you this from firsthand experience,” the woman wrote in a Facebook post that was later deleted along with the rest of her account. “I still remember vividly the night that this happened, and have a record that corroborates it.”

Keyes did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Times of Israel, but Army Radio quoted a denial made on his behalf by a Prime Minister’s Office official.

“I completely deny the charge, there was absolutely no coercion in our encounter,” an official said on Keyes’s behalf.

The woman, whose Facebook account appears to have been deactivated, graduated from Columbia University in 2014, having studied history with a focus on the Middle East and a concentration in Jewish studies. She was affiliated with Hillel, was a member of J Street, and worked on campus with the World Zionist Organization.

She was 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 month later, she wrote in a blog post. She has since written she supports the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against Israel. The woman did not respond to The Times of Israel’s requests for comment.

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.”

Before taking the job with Netanyahu last month, Keyes headed Advancing Human Rights, an umbrella human rights organization operating Movements.org, a crowdsourcing platform connecting dissidents in closed societies with those who might be able to help all over the globe.

He was also the director of Cyberdissidents.org, which he founded while working for former Soviet dissident Natan Sharansky in Israel. The site “highlight the voices of democratic online activists in the Middle East,” he told The Times of Israel during an extensive interview last year.

He gained plaudits for videos he made in which he confronted Iranian nuclear negotiators over the country’s human rights record, and in which he attempted to embarrass Saudi diplomats by holding a gay rights party at a hotel where they were holding an event.

The Saudi video has since been removed from YouTube.

He posted his first tweet as Netanyahu’s official spokesman on Sunday, saying he was “honored and humbled to serve the State of Israel.”

Before Keyes’s appointment, Netanyahu’s planned appointment of Ran Baratz as his media czar was shelved amid a storm of outrage over the candidate calling US President Barack Obama anti-Semitic.

The prime minister revived Baratz’s candidacy last week, by submitting the nomination to the state commission in charge of vetting candidates for high-level public posts.

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