Senior lawyer tells conference he may take up arms if judicial changes materialize

Attorney David Hodek threatens to ‘use live fire’ rather than live under dictatorship he claims legal overhaul would represent: ‘If I need to fight, I’ll fight’

Attorney David Hodek (Arielinson-Wikimeida commons CC BY-SA 4.0)
Attorney David Hodek (Arielinson-Wikimeida commons CC BY-SA 4.0)

A lawyer and Yom Kippur War hero sparked controversy at a legal conference on Wednesday after he said he “would not hesitate to use live fire” if the government pursued its controversial plans to overhaul the legal system.

David Hodek, a commercial lawyer who won a Medal of Courage, one of the Israeli military’s highest awards, for his conduct as a tank officer in the 1973 Yom Kippur War, told the Israel Bar Association’s annual conference in Eilat that “if someone forces me to live in a dictatorship and I have no choice, I won’t hesitate to use live fire.”

Hodek, who was speaking on a panel, appeared to make clear he was not talking metaphorically, saying: “People are willing to fight with weapons. Everyone is aghast [at such statements]. They say ‘How can you say such a thing?’ I’m saying it. If I’m forced to go there and they drag me there, that’s what I’ll do.”

According to the Maariv news outlet, some in the surprised audience applauded the rhetoric, while others considered making a complaint against Hodek.

“I’m not in favor [of the sweeping reforms], and it’s a terrifying vision, but I won’t live under a dictatorship. Whoever does not want war should prevent this dictatorship,” Hodek said, before affirming: “If I need to fight, I’ll fight.

“As an adult in Israel I was taught two things: how to be a lawyer and how to fight — I believe this government does not understand what a quagmire it is getting into,” he said.

Hodek lauded the level of opposition to the planned reforms among the Israeli public. “People are ready to fight with weapons. If it needs to come to that, and if they drag me there, that’s what I’ll do.”

Israelis protest against the proposed changes to the legal system, in Tel Aviv, on January 28, 2023. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

At the same conference, Israel Press Council President and former Supreme Court deputy Hanan Melcer addressed threats by members of the new government to shut down the Kan public broadcaster.

Launched in 2017 after a drawn-out legal process to replace its predecessor, the Israel Broadcasting Authority, Kan has long been a target of Likud party members who view it as hostile to their agenda.

File: Supreme Court Justice Hanan Melcer, chairman of the Central Elections Committee, at the Knesset on April 3, 2019. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

An attempt by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to split Kan into separate news and entertainment divisions was agreed upon in 2018, only to be abandoned once Israel won the 2018 Eurovision Contest, since maintaining an independent public broadcaster was a requirement for hosting the following year.

Melcer compared Kan to the BBC, telling the audience that in the UK, there is a bipartisan consensus regarding the importance of the service.

“The public broadcaster is not just to fulfill the public’s right to know or the freedom of the press,” he said. “Rather, it allows the reporting of the current circumstances in a neutral and objective manner. It can be critical and do unique things” that commercial channels do not.

Melcer also highlighted the ability of the public broadcaster to provide content and information to vulnerable populations, minority groups and those with disabilities.

“The law also says that the public broadcaster should be critical and this is what the rulers do not like, just as the rulers in Poland, Hungary and Turkey do not like it. As a result, there too they eroded the freedom of the press and public broadcasting,” Melcer concluded.

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