Steven Aiello

Laughter: The Best Defense?

I know you’ve seen them. The memes, the facebook statuses about what you were doing when the sirens went off. Selfies in the bomb shelter. The sketches, the jokes, the Iron Dome caricatures. It seems like this war, despite its intensity, has been witness to a lighthearted side that only our social media-driven world could produce.
This humor is a coping mechanism, one that Jews seem to have perfected through generations of persecution. It also may be our most powerful weapon against Hamas terrorism.

Hamas is a terror organization. It can’t reasonably compete militarily with the IDF. Instead it engages in a wide assortment of terrorist activities in what is essentially psychologically warfare against the Israeli public. In the past it has proven to be quite a successful terror organization, perpetrating numerous egregious attacks. But Israel has also tightened its security considerably, most notably limiting Hamas (and affiliates) access to the West Bank and entry into Israel.

During the current, ongoing war, Hamas has used almost its full repertoire against Israel, with little success. It has been defeated by sea, underground, by air, drones, rockets and personnel. Doubtless, the ability to reach all of Israel with its rockets was meant to be a morale killer for Israelis, a means of instilling fear in the Israeli population regardless of the accuracy of the rockets. Similarly it’s clear that the Iron Dome has played an important role in preventing these rockets from causing more physical damage than they have.

However, Hamas never expected to defeat us militarily. Its leaders may not share our values, but they aren’t delusional. Their military goals are terrorism: the intimidation of our population. It’s not the Iron Dome denying them that victory, at least the Iron Dome is not doing it alone. It’s us. It’s the ability to turn a daily trip to the bomb shelter into a comical moment. The ability to maintain a sense of humor during one of the most stressful periods in recent history going back to the first kidnappings. It’s the irreverence, the irony, the satire, the puns. The jokes and the memes- they’re not just funny. They’re not just cathartic. They’re our own civilian Iron Dome. They are the refusal of a nation to allow a terrorist organization, our most dedicated enemy, to get under our skin. We may be angry, we may be sad, we may be frustrated. We are human, and that humanity is important. But the humor denies Hamas the ability to terrorize us. So keep those jokes coming. We have more dark times ahead of us (insert your favorite tunnel joke here). There are times we’ll want to scream, times we’ll need to cry. But keep laughing too; it’s perhaps our most powerful weapon against an asymmetric enemy whose tactics are as psychological as they are military.

About the Author
Steven Aiello is the Director of Debate for Peace (, and a board member of the NGO Committee on Sustainable Development NY. He has a BA in Economics, MA in Diplomacy and Conflict Studies, and MA in Islamic Studies. He teaches Model UN for schools throughout Israel. Among his other hats he serves as Regional Coordinator for Creating Friendships for Peace, and Dialogue Officer at Asfar. Steven has also served as Chief of the Middle East Desk Head for Wikistrat, interned for the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs and the American Islamic Congress. His writing has been published in the NY Daily News, Jerusalem Post, Iran Human Rights Review; Berkley Center at Georgetown;, and the Center for Islamic Pluralism. He can be reached via email at