Nancy Hartevelt Kobrin
Psychoanalyst & Counter Terrorist Expert

Hamas’s Neotenized Hollow Jihadis

Screenshot from Wikicommons of a Hamas child soldier

War Blog #7
(revised 08.11.23

Carlos the Jackal – An Empty Neotenized Human Being
The film Carlos by Olivier Assayas is receiving rave reviews concerning the “chic” 70s terrorist – The Jackal. David Mikics aptly entitled his review at Tablet “The Hollow Men.” Carlos was not just a terrorist he was a very specific kind of terrorist — a jihadi. To paraphrase Mikics the film shows us that these jihadis murder in order to prove that they exist [emphasis mine]. Cf.

Diving deep into the minds of the jihadis by means of their body language and graphic atrocities shows us this gratuitous acted outrage which exceeds murder itself. It is Hamas’s way to fill the void, their psychological and emotional internal emptiness. Cf. War Blog #1

Jihad’s Hollowness
What is this emotional emptiness all about? But before we enter into the black hole of Hamas, I want to be explicit about applying labels like “neo-Nazis” to Hamas. We should do so with caution. The labels of language are extremely important. Yet if we fail to use the correct labels, we will not be able to be effective in our strategies and tactics. We will remain paralyzed by denial.

Again, I would be remiss as someone trained in Islamic literature and culture not to point out, minimize or deliberately hide the fact that there is a long bloody history of jihad, holy war, which can be read about in the foundational text of Islam — the Quran. What happened during the incursion into Israel on 7/10/23 was JIHAD. We need to understand this and not hide from the fact.

21st Century Mechanized Jihad
Our national tragedy of the devastating Hamas horrendous murderous rage, the slaughter, the taking of hostages and murdering them – women, children, infants and the elderly is 21st c. jihad with a modern twist – sophisticated weapons, captagon and social media uploads to name only a few. Think of the jihadi 26/11 Mumbai Attacks over the Thanksgiving weekend; they were carried out by Laskar-e-Taiba from Pakistan. There jihadis ate almonds and took captagon in order to enhance and sustain their rampage of death and destruction so does Hamas.

For Israelis and global Jewry, of course, it is only natural for us to immediately think of the Shoah, the Farhud, the pogroms of North Africa etc. in relation to this horrific slaughter. However, I repeat, we would be in denial of jihad if we do so. Yes, 7/11 was reminiscent of the Nazi Einsatzgruppen but it is also classic jihad grounded in the Quran. We do our alleged Muslim allies a disservice if we gloss over this historical reality. The ummah needs to deal with Qatar, Iran, Hezbollah etc. and this 21st c. jihad. To throw up the label of Islamophobia and to hide behind it is to be an accomplice to the slaughter. For example last night I received an extremely hostile message at in which I was accused of Islamophobia. I knew then that my blog post had struck the chord of shame. This person was trying to bully me from writing more. To reveal the history of jihad is not Islamophobia.

But why are these Hamas jihadis so hollow? The answer in part can be found in the concept of neoteny. What is that?

The Neotenized Hamas jihadis
“The term neoteny is derived from the Latin, neotenia, neo + Greek teinein, to extend, meaning when larva life is extended. Neoteny is also called juvenilization, is the retention by adults in a species, of traits previously seen only in juveniles. “

Robert Irwin ― the renowned scholar of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London, as well as Middle East editor of the Times Literary Supplement ― wrote that neoteny is “the prolonged retention of immature characteristics or features in the adult form….” Neoteny also has a dark side, which we encounter in jihadi culture, in male behavior in particular.

The Islamic suicide terrorists [lege Hamas] and all their accessories to the crime — the engineer bomb maker, the recruiter, the sender, the escort, the charismatic leader their mothers and fathers, their uncles, the clan, the tribe, the umma — are terrified because they, too, have been “neotenized.” They are developmentally arrested and have never been allowed to separate, individuate, mature, or be free, independent, self-sufficient, confident, and competent human beings.

They live their early lives in the throes of terrorizing and shaming child-rearing practices. If one never separates psychologically, they are left with group think, a kind of herd mentality. The family, the community, and the culture embody and accept bad behavior as normative. These behaviors become habituated to death, providing an easier justification for joining the jihad and volunteering as a suicide bomber. Those with a deprived childhood who radicalize now feel part of a family. They have been duped and manipulated in an insidiously infantilizing, humiliating, and shaming way, yet they prefer this to living in the loneliness or the abyss of a black hole. They feel alive because they are enraged. “It is estimated 1 percent of the nearly 1.5 billion Muslims become violent jihadis. That is a significant number of jihadis.”

Jihadis are like children in their enactment of stone-throwing and stabbing behaviors. This is common in shame–honor cultures and societies, where the male stays forever fused to the mother and is not encouraged to separate from her. This fosters neotenization, growing into adulthood with immature, even violent, traits and tendencies. Furthermore, this kind of violent neotenized behavior can be extrapolated to all other shame–honor groups that have spawned suicide bombings. In the West we encourage the individuation‒separation stage of development, which the Islamic terrorists miss completely. Instead they remain locked into the state of maternal symbiosis or maternal fusion, grounded in the environment of their shame–honor culture and religion. The male is essentially terrified of the female and her body; hence, he must destroy her in order to free himself from the maternal fusion, from the mother’s body.*

We see that the maternal attachment over the generations of jihad is pathologically skewed and disruptive – a violent traumatic neotenized bonding. To underestimate the significance of maternal bonding is to completely misread the source of Hamas’s rage. They are neotenized just like chickens. In the forthcoming blog posts I will address the issue of primitive mental states, the battle between internal and external reality and other subjects.

Caveat: Listen with your “third ear” – your gut. Hamas tells you what they will do and they do it.

*excerpt from my The Jihadi Dictionary: The Essential Intel Tool for Military, Law Enforcement, Government and the Concerned Public, 2016.

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About the Author
Dr. Kobrin made aliyah in 2010 and is an internationally renowned counterterrorism expert and psychoanalyst holding a PhD in Islamic literature, aljamía 16th c. Author of five books. She has conducted prison interviews, a former military contractor with an academic appointment as external expert at La Universidad de Granada. She is a senior research analyst for The Islamic Theology of Counter Terrorism Center. She also works in citizen diplomacy. In August 2020 she was the first Israeli to be live-streamed from Islamabad.