A group of Satmar Hasidic Jews are coming under fire for burning an Israeli flag in Williamsburg during a raucous Purim celebration on Sunday.
Journalist Jacob Kornbluh caught the action on video and posted it online on Monday. In the clip, a tightly-packed circle of ultra-Orthodox Jewish revelers, some dressed in holiday costumes, chant and dance as a handful of merrymakers ignite the flag and raise it above the crowd and community affairs cops half-heartedly try to push the party back, away from the falling embers. Some members of the Satmar sect say they oppose Israel because a Jewish state does not jibe with their strict interpretation of the Torah, but that the flag-burnings, which have been happening for years, reflect poorly on the larger Satmar community.
“We are against Zionism, but we do not believe that this is a tactic that should be done,” said Community Board 1 member and Satmar adherent Simon Weiser. “The people who do this are a fringe of extremist, and they make us all look bad.”
The arsonists will not be shunned, because they keep to themselves, but they do not have the sanction of any official group, said Weiser.
“There has never been a Satmar rabbi who has permitted or endorsed this action,” he said.
The clip has found its way onto international Jewish news websites and racked up more than 10,000 views in four days, igniting online debates over whether the flag-burnings are appropriate, or even whether Satmar followers should be allowed Israeli citizenship.
Among other beefs with the Israeli government, Satmar members oppose mandatory military conscription.