Marc Gafni Responds: The Missing Facts, Motives, and Hidden Malice in My Ex-Wife’s Articles about Me
About a year ago, my former wife Chaya Lester actively participated — once again — in a smear campaign directed against me. A number of the key articles and blogs in the smear campaign have appeared in the internet. Because of that, I am responding in my blog-post to respond to some of the key issues in the smear campaign.
In this first post, I will begin by addressing the articles published by Lester on the Internet. It is time to break the silence and to restore integrity. I must respond in the public forum — not the space I would have chosen but the one that Chaya chosen — so it is only in this virtual space that integrity can be restored.
Before you begin the actual article below however I want to refer you to two websites that have just been put up to engage the meta-topic of smear campaigns and in particular the smear campaign whose chosen target I have been.
The first website is called Evolving Public Culture. It deals with the larger social cultural issues of smear campaigns. The second site, Who Is Marc Gafni, deals with these same public culture issues but through the specific prism of “my” smear campaign. (Always nice to have your own smear campaign). On the Who is Marc Gafni website there is the full version of this article as well as a set of videos dedicated to Chaya, which in the following video I invite you to watch.
Let me begin by saying that I never wanted to write this piece. In fact, I have tried to stay silent about it for nearly ten years.
I only write because, in the interest of truth and fairness, I feel compelled to speak up and refute the ongoing tapestry of lies, distortions and misstatements that my ex-wife Chaya has been spreading about me since 2006. Over the years, she has been posted increasingly histrionic and malicious diatribes.
In each piece Chaya writes, she dramatically declares that “I am breaking the silence.” She claims that she is taking great risks in telling her story — and that she is writing on behalf of other ‘victims’. But, the truth is that Chaya, as I will show, is no victim. And she is not breaking any silence. Chaya has not stopped talking for the last ten years — talking deceptively, with malicious intent and self-dramatizing crocodile tears.
I have been the one who has been silent.
So, finally, I have to respond directly to the outright falsehoods, distortions, and unsubstantiated speculations with which Chaya has attempted to destroy my reputation, interfere with my personal and professional relationships, and create disharmony in my life.
Chaya’s writing, in which she grandly claims to speak for all ‘victims’, is actually an offense to the true victims of abuse and sexual violence. Chaya has personally attacked me in online forums, sent slanderous letters sent to places where I have been invited to lecture, and most recently in five articles published in the Israeli press and in online blogs. She has repeatedly mischaracterized my conduct in our relationship as abusive. Now, she has helped inspire a major public smear campaign that threatens to destroy my credibility and my ability to do my work.
It is extremely painful for me to have to discuss my ex-wife’s character, or our relationship, in public. Airing personal grievances in public forums has always seemed to me like a violation of our intimate relationships. At this point, I really have no choice but to tell the story.
Here, I and members of the board of Center for Integral Wisdom discuss other aspects of the smear campaign that has gone on in the press since December, 2015, and that goes back more than ten years. This article speaks only to the claims Chaya has made, to the motives that appear to be behind them, and especially to her character as a complainant.
Who Am I?
Let me start by saying who I am. I am a writer, a thinker, and a lover of people and of community. My life has been committed to evolving the source code of culture and consciousness, and to evolving our understanding of love. For many years, I sought for this in Jewish wisdom and community. Though I still adore the Hebrew wisdom tradition, my current teaching draws more on contemporary evolutionary theory and biology, as well as cross-cultural spiritual understandings about reality. Because I believe deeply that love is both transpersonal and deeply personal, a lot of my work has been done in relationships — friendships, professional partnerships, practice communities, and romantic and sometimes sexual relationships. In this, as in everything else, I have made mistakes. Like most human beings, I am a work in progress.
Yet, I have placed my calling as a writer, teacher, and creator of community before almost any other value in my life.
This has at times been a cause of suffering to my family and to some of my intimate partners. I deeply regret this, in more ways than I can say. Yet I continue to believe that the most significant thing I can do with my life, the best contribution I can make to alleviate suffering on this planet of ours, is to evolve, articulate and inspire new frameworks of meaning that transform for the good the way we experience and respond to our reality. Among these is the transformation of the way we understand love and Eros.
In the last five years, through the Center for Integral Wisdom, I have been blessed to work with a community of brilliant colleagues, who have come together because they too have a call to this work. Our relationships are collegial, loving and deeply satisfying. These associations are based on a profound recognition of shared consciousness.
I cannot be true to either this work or to my partners in the work without speaking honestly to these attacks.
The Destructive Side of Social Media
There is more than enough material in some of the press reports and in many of the online personal attacks to warrant extensive litigation. These articles and statements contain dozens of assertions about my behavior that are demonstrably untrue.
Worst of all is the insidious defilement of language through a kind of childish name calling that violates both my dignity and their own. Chaya and her posse have not seen or spoken to me in more than ten years. Yet, they feel free to throw around words like ‘monster’ or ‘sociopath’ or ‘fiend’ or ‘predator’ that have nothing to do with who I am. Yet because she was married to me, and claims to speak from personal experience, many people believe her. Language is powerful. And despite evidence that much of what is written on the Internet is untrue, many people take it seriously.
We are living in a time when social media can be brilliantly deployed to call out wrongs that would never be addressed in our legal system. Powerless people, for the first time, are being given voice against the powerful — witness the use of Internet and social media in the Black Lives Matter movement, or by feminist activists to call out sexism on Facebook.
One important result of this is that women who have been sexually or emotionally abused can, for almost the first time in history, speak up about their situation and receive a hearing. This is one of the most important developments of post-modern life.
Yet along with this, there’s been a parallel, and very disturbing development: the growing practice of Internet witch-hunting. A demonizing story — sometimes true, but just as often false, or radically distorted and misinterpreted — can be circulated around the world of online media, and brutally damage an individual’s reputation. Words like ‘predator’ and ‘sociopath’ are today’s equivalent of ‘witch.’ Attach them to the name of someone you don’t like, and you automatically cause people to look at them differently. If no real evidence exists — hey, make it up! Twist someone’s life to reframe it as a narrative of transgression. And if they are a public figure — well, pretty much anything goes.
This is what has happened — and continues to happen — in this case. These deceptive and false claims, from Chaya and one or two others, have now become the basis of an organized and widely disseminated smear campaign against me. As of this writing, the Jewish press is still featuring articles that repeat these smears. Reading these accounts, most of them essentially based on Chaya’s ‘testimony’, has left me flabbergasted and, I admit, almost speechless, as though I had been caught in someone else’s nightmare.
As a white male with enormous opportunity and privilege, I would feel ridiculous in claiming to be a victim. Yet, there is no question that I am now the target of intense negative press, much of it based on Chaya’s ‘testimony’ over the last ten years. As a result, people who have been my friends are afraid to be seen defending me. Others who personally dislike me, feel competitive with me, or just enjoy the thrill of joining in the chorus of damning another person, concur triumphantly that “Gafni doesn’t deserve to be teaching” Many well-intentioned people sign petitions against me, because they want to be in the club of the virtuous and believe what they read.
At the same time I was gratified that dozens of my colleagues and virtually all of our board members have stood in integrity with me. You can see some of their testimony HERE.