The thirtieth anniversary of the last uncontested Satmar Rebbe occured recently. Naturally the Chareidi part of the web has been filled with glowing tributes to a great, religious leader.
Certainly it is considered ill-mannered to speak poorly of the dead but on the other hand, I don't see things the way they do.
I will not comment on the Satmar's learning. He was clearly a genius with great knowledge, strong personal conviction and emunas Hashem.
What I will comment on is the legacy he left behind.
Years ago I read about the conflict he had with Rav Moshe Feinstein, zt"l, over in vitro fertilization. Rav Feinstein permitted it while he forbid it. At one point he dispatched three of his best chasidim to visit Rav Feinstein and order him to change his psak. However his chasidim were given specific instructions to not discuss the subject with the Rav.
The students were more intellectually honest than the teacher though. Upon meeting with Rav Feinstein, they did engage in discussion around the issue and Rav Feinstein was able to rebut all the Satmar's concerns. Convinced that his position had validity they returned to their rebbe and told him so. Apparently the rebbe's response was "See! I told you not to engage in discussions with him!"
Part of the halachic process is the exchange of ideas. If one looks through the corpus of our legal literature, the phrase "It's this way 'cuz I says it is!" does not appear. A posek must bring adequate sources for his position as well as reasoned arguments as to why the opposing position has no validity. Ours is not a dictatorial system but one of undending dialogue and contextual understanding. The Satmar, by attempting to dictate to Rav Feinstein what his position should be despite the latter's superior reasoning, demonstrated the exact opposite.
This is not something that was lost on his followers. Several months ago a Satmar meshulach came to my door for money. While we were talking I asked if he'd ever visited Israel and that I was hoping to live there one day. He replied that the Satmar had said that it is forbidden to do that.
So I went over to my bookshelf and pulled down half a dozen seforim which show that, adraba, it is okay to live there and build up the land. He pushed them aside (gently) and said that all that was in those books is meaningless because the Satmar has paskened and you can't disagree with him.
I'm sorry but I fail to see the deep intelligence or holiness in such a system. Eilu v'eilu is a fundamental part of the halachic process. How can someone who refuses to consider the second eilu as valid because it disagrees with him pasken within that process?
The other legacy the Satmar left behind is one of ingratitude. His hostility to Zionism is well know but what is less known (and probably forbidden knowledge in Williamsburg and Kiras Joel) is that the Satmar himself only survived the Shoah because of the Zionists. Having forbidden his followers to flee Hungary as the Nazis were preparing to exterminate its entire Jewish population, he then did just that with the help of the Zionists who got him to - wait for it - Israel where he lived for a couple of years before decamping to the United States. Having been saved by them, he then spent his life defaming, criticizing and indoctrinating against those same. Zionists. This lack of hakaras hatov is shocking, no less in that it comes from a man who spent his days steeped in Torah. Even more shocking is how his students, the Neturei Karta have chosen to show love and allegiance to those who would attempt to perpetrate a second Holocaust. (Yes, I know Satmar officially disowned them but they still call him their spiritual inspiration)
In all the propaganda regarding the godlus of the Satmar Rebbe, we must all be reminded that there was a dark side that continues to create friction and factionalism within the Jewish community to this day.