In death, as in life, Haviv Schieber is stirring the emotional caldrons of political and religious rivals.

On New Year's Eve, Schieber, once the mayor of an Israeli town, died penniless at a friend's home in Arlington.

Six days later his body still lies under refrigeration in the Arlington Hospital morgue, caught in a dispute between a self-described right-wing Baptist minister in Arlington who wants Schieber buried as a Christian and a Hasidic rabbi in Rockville who wants him buried as a Jew.

The National Council on Islamic Affairs has jumped into the fray, and the former deputy director of the Palestine Liberation Organization's now-closed information office in Washington also has an opinion on the matter.

Schieber, who was 74 when he died, was born to Jewish parents in Poland, which he left in 1932. In the late 1940s, he fought to establish the State of Israel, but in 1959 he came to the United States and became active in anti-Zionist political work highly critical of the Jewish state, according to associates. At various times in his life, he shared the differing philosophies of the individuals now fighting over his remains.

The Rev. Dale P. Crowley Jr., who calls himself "one of those fanatically insane, raving right-wing" fundamentalist Baptist ministers, said the thought of a Jewish burial "would be very repugnant" to Schieber, who Crowley said "had disdain for the rabbis. He mocked them, he made fun of them."

At the time of his death, Schieber had been living with Crowley for more than two years. The two men had attended Baptist services and, Crowley said, Schieber had renounced Judaism as well as Israel.

But M.T. Mehdi, president of the New York-based National Council on Islamic Affairs, a Islamic educational and advocacy group, said Schieber, whom he described as a good friend, "thought of himself as a Jew. Let's accord him this dignity in death."

The deputy director of the PLO's former information office here, Said Hamad, agreed, saying Schieber considered himself "a Jew who believes in peace." Hamad said he occasionally worked with Schieber.

"His political views had nothing to do with his understanding of himself," said Rabbi Shmuel Kaplan of the Chabad House in Rockville, who has offered to perform a Jewish burial service. "We are prepared to pursue the issue in court . . . . {Burial} is a very serious issue in Jewish families."

Crowley said he had arranged for Schieber to receive a Christian burial, but that when a Jewish friend of Schieber's, Charles Fischbein, found out about it, he called the funeral home and demanded a halt to the arrangements.

The funeral home, caught in the middle, asked the hospital to keep Schieber's body until the dispute is settled. Arlington County Clerk David Bell has asked the county attorney's office to help the two sides come to an agreement.

Kaplan said late yesterday afternoon that he had reached Schieber's son Daniel in Israel and that Daniel Schieber had asked that his father be buried in a Jewish cemetery. Kaplan said he is awaiting a written request, which he will pass on to the county attorney.

By all accounts, Schieber was a man obsessed with his political convictions.

His entire family, except for a brother, was killed by either the Nazis or communists, he told The Washington Post in a 1974 interview. When the State of Israel was created, Schieber joined the Israeli army. In 1949 he was elected mayor of Beersheba.

Schieber organized the Anti-Communist League of Israel and was arrested at least 18 times for such actions as putting anticommunist leaflets in orange crates being exported to the Soviet Union, according to his comments in the Post interview.

Friends said Schieber grew increasingly disillusioned with Israeli policy regarding Palestinians and with what he saw as a trend toward socialism in the country. He came to the United States on a visitor's visa and managed to avoid deportation for nearly two decades.

In the United States, he founded the Holy Land State Committee, dedicated to the idea that Jews, Moslems and Christians should hold equal power in Israel.

In 1974 the Justice Department tried to deport Schieber but, according to friends and a short autobiography, he forestalled the order when he slit his wrists on the way to the airport and had to be taken to a hospital. A second deportation order was rescinded.

Friends said Schieber lived off small contributions he solicited for his committee work, and that he became involved in right-wing, anticommunist activities, including Crowley's weekly radio program, "Focus on Israel."

Mehdi said he spoke with Schieber two days before his death. "I'm trying to ask him about his health and he asks what's going on in Israel," Mehdi said. "He was obsessed with his political thoughts. I'm sure that obsession consumed him. Judaism, as a religion, was secondary."