Net Hate in Neverland

To locals, he's a roadside institution. But to the Usenet, he's a monster.

But even as his Internet enemies dismiss Seredin as an old kook, others admit a sense of trepidation. "My one worry is that even though I think he's a harmless wacko, there might be a .45 under the desk," Susan says.

It's not an unreasonable fear. Seredin has referred to his "Glock" in postings. "But I was bluffing — I hate guns," he says, laughing.

"There's only so hard I'm going to push, because I do not want to be responsible for having pushed him over the edge," Ben-Tovim says. "When he starts raving, he just becomes a lunatic. Truly a lunatic. I'm not so sure that he wouldn't become dangerous."

Community activists Florence Ross and Altaf Ali (next photo) disapprove of Seredin's online activities.
Colby Katz
Community activists Florence Ross and Altaf Ali (next photo) disapprove of Seredin's online activities.

Perhaps. But it's Seredin's detractors who regularly threaten violence and Ben-Tovim who passes by Seredin's shop from time to time. And if his neighbors ever decide to lay their disapproval at his doorstep, Seredin plans to greet them with open arms.

"The first thing I'll do is make a pot of green tea," he says.

It hasn't been easy to expose "the chief Nazi of Delray Beach," as he's been called. Outside of cyberspace, South Florida's population doesn't seem aware that one of the Internet's most notorious anti-Semites is quietly selling seashells in their midst. In fact, City Link Magazine, a weekly produced by the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, featured Peter Pan Gifts as "The Best Place to Buy Tacky Souvenirs" last fall, a notice that infuriated Seredin's enemies.

"Alex Seredin has been spewing obscene anti-Semitic hate in Usenet newsgroups for years — to the utter indifference of the local community where this jackass does business, even getting some favorable publicity in a dimwitted local newspaper," Israpundit wrote. "Kind of makes you wonder whether there'd be the same indifference to a bigot spewing anti-black or even anti-Islamic hysteria. Instead, a neo-Nazi nut with a garbage mouth spews hate on the Internet and nobody gives a damn."

Another blog, Mediacrity, urged South Floridians to expose Seredin:

"People down there have to get moving. Write the Jewish community, the newspapers and the churches. Let them throw up picket lines around this guy's store. Hand out leaflets with his rants on them. Pass out brochures at hotels and other tourist businesses."

A small groundswell against Seredin followed. Someone reported Peter Pan Gifts to the RipOff Report, an online watchdog website. Several Usenet regulars, including Ben-Tovim, say they reported Seredin to the FBI. Seredin's enemies urged one another to report him to the South Florida media and to the Anti-Defamation League. Seredin received death threats and says that a gang of men in yarmulkes sauntered into his store one day, browsed, and left without saying a word. He blustered back, posting that lawsuits, the FBI, and the Delray Police Department would respond to anyone who threatened him or his business.

Seredin insists that he isn't anti-Semitic and that he harbors no genocidal ill will toward Jews in general or even the Jews he says killed his family. By way of proof, he describes his many Jewish friends and talks of his wife's membership in Jews and Muslims and All, or JAM, a local peace group. He speaks fondly of the group's founder, 87-year-old peace activist Florence Ross, who gained a measure of international fame in 1986 when she told Russian and American delegates at a peace conference that they were "behaving like little boys," earning her the nickname "The Grandmother With Balls."

"She likes me," Seredin says of Ross, who is Jewish. "We have had some good conversations. She says to me, 'Oh, I wish all the Palestinians and Israelis would just come across and hug each other.' I say to her, 'You know that will never happen. You have to have justice before you start lovey-doveying. '"

Ross, who hadn't heard of Seredin's Internet activities, says she's talked with the Seredins at JAM meetings but isn't friends with the couple. "They've never been openly anti-Semitic in my presence. I feel strongly that they are good people, but their minds are closed."

When told of Seredin's fondness for the word kike, Ross becomes peppery. "Why does he come to JAM meetings? We're all about compassionate compromise!"

Like Ross, most of South Florida appears ignorant of Seredin's secret life as an Internet hatemonger.

Delray Beach police have never heard of Seredin, and local Jewish groups say his name is unfamiliar. The South Florida branch of the Anti-Defamation League, which protects minorities of all religious persuasions, has heard of Seredin because he has appealed to them for help and protection. The South Florida ADL didn't answer New Times' questions about Seredin, and Seredin says that when he contacted the ADL, he was told he would get no help.

The South Florida chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, a group that protects Muslims from discrimination, has also never heard of Seredin — but that's because Seredin doesn't want them to.

"Jewish people are constantly crying about how hard it is," he says. "That's the reason why I didn't go to CAIR, because I didn't feel like copycatting them. I would be doing just the same thing."

Altaf Ali, head of CAIR's local branch, says he would defend Seredin's right to free speech but not before taking him to task for being a bad Muslim.

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