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Net Hate in Neverland

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

By Julia Reischel  
Article Published Sep 21, 2006

When Mickey Ben-Tovim drives by Peter Pan Gifts, a small seashell shop in Delray Beach,
he slows his Ferarri and squints through the windows cluttered with conchs and cowries,
searching for a man he wants dead. 

"He's truly one of the more vile individuals you'll ever come across," says Ben-Tovim, an
Israeli-born Sarasota computer programmer. "I have on occasion thought about causing him
bodily harm, but then I thought, you know, I'm not going to risk my freedom for his. But
I was a Marine Corps sniper. If I had the urge to kill him, I would've done it a long
time ago, and no one would ever find out." 

For at least a decade, 74-year-old Alex Seredin, owner and proprietor of Peter Pan Gifts,
has spent his nights posting Internet messages filled with his hatred of Jews. A search
on his e-mail address produces thousands of messages laced with all-caps profanity and
the word kike. 

Using a variety of pseudonyms such as "El Conquistador" and "Strider," all of which trace
back to the same BellSouth account, Seredin is a regular presence on messageboards
dedicated to Jewish culture and Holocaust denial. Under "Serwad," his oldest nom de
guerre, he writes with unflagging passion about the sins, as he sees them, of Israel and

In a typical message, titled "HOLOCAUST IS THE JEW LIE AND DOWNFALL," Seredin explains
that anti-Semitism is the fault of Jews themselves: "I am not against the Jewish people,
but I really think they should know that those of us that are not Jewish, do not sit
around all day every day thinking about being Jewish," he writes. "And that the idea to
introduce oneself as Hello my name is David and I'm a Jew at EVERY encounter is really
what engenders anti-Semitism, let alone that is very tiresome." 

Many of his posts quickly degenerate into short, profane volleys with other newsgroup
regulars, with Seredin demonstrating that he has a short temper and an oddball vocabulary
of racial slurs. 


By posting dozens of messages like these every day, Seredin has earned a storied
reputation as one of the most venerable and irrational racists in the newsgroup

"There are 200 million Islamo-fascists who are bent on destroying our way of life, and
Seredin is one of those people who buys into it," Ben-Tovim says. "It's anger - it's all

"His posts all sound alike," says Susan, a Usenet regular from Maryland who has been
sparring with Seredin for years. "They're all the really frothing at the mouth, English
not quite perfect. And then he starts making sexual slurs. He usually speaks about the
clit. He says clacker, which I think is supposed to mean the same thing. He resorts to
this when he's backed into a corner. He's vociferous and gross about it." 

The war became a dirty one long ago. Ben-Tovim and others tracked down Seredin's home
address and business and published them on the messageboards, along with his private
telephone number and the name of his wife, Mona. 

"I'm getting worried about Alex," one poster wrote in late 2005. "The anger. The upper
case. This is an urgent message to anyone who lives in Delray Beach, Florida. Stop by
Alex's home and shop and see how he is doing! Here are the coordinates." 

Seredin, who refused to be photographed for this article, has fought back with similar
tactics but has never managed to shift attacks away from himself. Ben-Tovim says Seredin
serves a useful purpose in the Usenet ecosystem. "Alex is so outrageous that he's
actually a very good example of how ignorant anti-Semitism is," he says. "He's a very
good way of making all anti-Semites look bad. He shouldn't be silenced - he should be

The fact that he spends his days selling seashells to aging Floridians out of a store
named for a beloved children's storybook character makes him curiously compelling to
everyone on the messageboards. 

"I wonder what the heck he is doing," Susan says. "Sitting in the back waiting for
customers, typing between sales?" 

On a recent lazy summer Monday afternoon, Alex Seredin is behind the counter at the
center of his large, whitewashed roadside shop, attending to a belligerent gray-haired
customer while tinny piped-in country music tinkles above. 

"Just let me see it!" his patron barks as Seredin handles one of the many shells she is
buying. Square-faced, with a cap of white hair and a large round belly under his lavender
T-shirt, Seredin responds good-naturedly with a genial "ho, ho, ho" as he hands it back
to her. He looks exactly like a tropical Santa Claus after a good shave. 

His jolliness soothes his customer. Pawing over her purchases, she becomes pleased. "This
is really going to look kitsch!" she murmurs, delighted. 

"There are some real treasures here. It's a wonderful place for kids," Seredin calls
after her in his wheezy Eastern European accent. "Have a good day, my dear." 

Though it's officially after business hours, a trickle of customers keeps coming in to
wander through the rows of baby sharks floating in bottles of electric-blue liquid, tubs
of $1 starfish husks, and shells of every variety. Seredin buys the shells in bulk,
shipped over from Indonesia and Malaysia, and resells them to beachcombers looking for
souvenirs. He purchased the store from its original owner in 1996, when Seredin and his
wife followed the snowbirds from Ottawa to Florida and decided to roost. 

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