Today, to my dismay, I found myself slandered (libeled really) by a blogger/journalist named Ami Isseroff. Mr. Isseroff runs a number of sites dealing with Israel, Zionism and Palestine. In his introduction to my recent interview with Joel Schalit, Mr. Isseroff wrote “Roi Ben Yehuda lives in Spain. He last concocted a fable about anti-Semitism in Spain, which cannot be verified by people living there.”
When I read those lines I was incredulous. My eyes did a double take. Did he really write this? Claiming that a journalist concocted a fable in a major newspaper is a serious charge. In fact it is the worst charge you can throw at journalist: It is like accusing a priest of spending a little too much time with the alter boys :) I wondered what evidence Mr. Isseroff was basing his claim that I fabricated the whole thing? Who were these people who could not verify my story? And since when can the absence of evidence be sufficient warrant to make a positive claim?
The article that Mr. Isseroff was alluding to was my Haaretz piece entitled Epiphany in A Spanish Neo-Nazi Bookstore. In the piece, I tell of my surprising (and eventually ennobling) experience of encountering signs of Anti Semitism in Barcelona. These included Swastikas (both pro-and anti) which are readily used as part of the city’s culture of political graffiti and a lively experience in a Neo-Nazi bookstore. (Here are recent pictures I took of some Swastikas carvings in Barcelona [I have plenty more]. The latter was in IKEA’s parking garage. I think they are going to need a bigger sign to cover that one up) :)
Not wanting to let Mr. Isseroff statement slide, I contacted Haaretz who straight-away asked Mr. Isseroff to respond to his outlandish and libelous claim. Within a short time, Mr. Isseroff altered his introduction to read:
Roi Ben Yehuda is an Israeli, or ex-Israeli, who lives in Spain and writes frequently for Ha’aretz. He previously (see ‘Epiphany in a Spanish neo-Nazi bookstore,’ Haaretz June 15, 2008) alleged that a Neo-Nazi Book shop is selling anti-Semitic materials in Barcelona, a claim made by no-one else to my knowledge, and an assertion that cannot be verified by a friend living there. She notes that the sale of such materials is forbidden by Spanish law. Roi’s story about Nazi bookstores in Spain is therefore dubious, to say the least.
Hmm. Lets look at the logic: Mr. Isseroff never heard of this store. This, for some reason, makes him suspicious. But ever the careful journalist, he decides to call a friend who lives in Barcelona who claimed she could not verify its existence (he later explained to me that his friend does not live in Barcelona but near Barcelona). She further claims that such a store would be impossible because “the sale of such materials is forbidden by Spanish law”. Aha! Mr. Isseroff comes to the conclusion, “Roi’s story about Nazi bookstores in Spain is therefore dubious, to say the least.” Wow Mr. Isseroff, that is some great investigatory journalism. You seemed to have uncovered the Jewish Jayson Blair. Bravo!
But there is just one problem. The store is alive & well. Your “friend” can easily verify the claim by going over and visiting the store. She can also read about the store in (Spanish) Wiki. It is located at la calle Séneca número 12 in Barcelona.
But isn’t the existence of such a store against the law? After all, Mr. Isseroff’s friend said so. Nope. It is true that in 1996 Spain had reformed its legal code in order to criminalize Holocaust denial, but when they actually tried to implement the new law (by arresting and trying Pedro Varela the owner of the neo-Nazi bookstore), the Constitutional Court ruled that Pedro Varela has the constitutional freedom to publish material that deny or justify the Holocaust. You can read about it (in Spanish) here.
But you want to see the store and its Nazi material with your eyes, right? Well here you go. Enjoy.
Ok. Enough with the Spanish. You want something in English. Well, how about something from David Duke (the infamous anti-Semite and Holocaust revisionist). After all, as you should know, he is a good friend of the owner of the “alleged” store (here they are together holding some Jew-friendly literature).
Here he is writing about his friend being arrested in Spain (remember, his conviction was deemed unconstitutional and overturned). Here is a video of the two of them together (If you wait a little the video will turn to english.) At the end of the video Duke talks about all his support in Madrid and Barcelona.
So Mr. Isseroff, you can no longer claim ignorance nor can you rely on your friend’s ignorance. This store exists, it sells vile materials, it has support, and it is legal. I hope that next time you act with more sagacity and prudence before you make baseless and ignorant allegations against someone. You had the courage to throw at me the worst charge a journalist can face, lets see if you also have the courage to admit when you are wrong.