WARSAW, Poland – An anti-Zionist rabbi who attended a conference in Iran that questioned the Holocaust said Wednesday he was beaten while in Poland by Jews furious at him for his actions.
Moishe Arye Friedman, who lives in Vienna, Austria, was attacked last Friday in Lezajsk, a small town in southeastern Poland. His attackers included Yehuda Meshi-Zahav, a member of the Israeli humanitarian group ZAKA, and two others, Friedman said in a telephone interview.
Meshi-Zahav, an orthodox Israeli Jew, confirmed to The Associated Press in a brief telephone interview from Jerusalem that he had been among Friedman's attackers.
Meshi-Zahav told Israel's Maariv newspaper that he and his friends had just paid an emotionally distressing visit to the Nazi death camp Auschwitz and were incensed to see Friedman.
"With every blow I felt like I was speaking in the name of the Jewish people," the paper quoted him as saying.
Friedman belongs to a handful of anti-Zionist rabbis who grabbed headlines in December when they joined a conference in Tehran hosted by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad that sought to cast doubt on the Nazi Holocaust during World War II.
Friedman was among Jewish participants who hugged Ahmadinejad, who has described the Holocaust as a "myth" and called for the Israeli state to be "wiped off the map."
His attack came during annual commemorations for an 18th century Hassidic rabbi buried in Lezajsk, which were attended by both Friedman and Meshi-Zahav.
"I was attacked with such brutality," said Friedman, 35, who said he was kicked and punched. He said he was badly bruised and still recovering at his home in Vienna.
Friedman said that his attacker yelled out "he's the one from the pictures of Ahmadinejad!" before beating him.
Meshi-Zahav told Maariv newspaper he had heard Friedman was at the event and went with a friend to find him.
"We gave him a good beating, the kind we haven't given out for a long time," Maariv quoted Meshi-Zahav as saying, adding that others in the crowd joined in the attack shouting "go to Ahmadinejad" before Friedman was aided by local policemen.
Police confirmed responding to the incident but did not report any arrests.
Meshi-Zahav is one of the founders of ZAKA Rescue and Recovery, an Israeli volunteer group that provides paramedic help to accident and disaster victims but is best known for the gruesome work of gathering up body fragments at the scenes of many suicide bombings so they can be buried in accordance with Jewish law.
Friedman is associated with, but not a member of Neturei Karta, a small, fiercely anti-Zionist sect that opposes the drive to establish the state of Israel, believing only the Messiah could do that.
Friedman's children were expelled from a Jewish school in Vienna because he attended the Tehran conference. He said Wednesday that an Austrian court had ruled that they be allowed to return to the school.