Michael J. Salamon

Kidnap psychology

Taking someone against his or her will and without proper lawful authorization is legally referred to as kidnapping   ( while the more common lay terminology used is hostage taking nevertheless, the terms are used interchangeably. The psychological research literature on kidnapping is sparse at best and because kidnapping seems to be conflated with the more popular term – hostage taking, the topic is not that well defined. Yet, there is some data that may offer some insight into the reasons why Eyal, Naftali and Gil-ad were abducted.

Historically, most of the available literature on kidnapping focuses on the impact of the ordeal on the individuals who are abducted, a topic that will hopefully be addressed for the three boys when they are returned to their families soon. However, I have been repeatedly asked by so many over the last two weeks – Why did they take these young boys? Why haven’t they continued to abduct soldiers, why boys? What is the motivation of the kidnappers? – That a brief review of what we know may be helpful.

Some research into the motivations of kidnappers does exist and the findings are linked, obviously, with the goals of the demonic abductors. The most common reason that people are kidnapped is to obtain concessions, usually financial, while the second major motivator is to try to achieve political ends. According to one source, kidnappings done for political reasons do not generally end as well as those done for pure ransom. This is likely true because ransom money is easily understood – ‘Give them the money – it’s all they want’. Cash ransom is never the main goal of the political kidnapper – fear mongering is his primary aim and fear is layered, nuanced, and designed to dismay. Further, it is almost always well-trained groups who have chosen specific targets to create an environment of anxiety and terror who are at the forefront of this politically inspired form of kidnapping. Those who abduct for ransom will state demands while those who kidnap for political means may not even acknowledge that they are holding any hostages. This is precisely what we are seeing in this situation, but there is more.

There is little new in this horrible situation now going beyond two weeks except that according to two recently released Hamas Kidnapper Handbooks ( kidnappers are instructed to target soldiers of Ashkenazi descent with “weak physiques” who are married and have children. These evil instruction manuals also talk about using mortar fire from the West Bank to distract the military. The taking of the three boys did not follow this profile and that makes it even more terrorizing. When a soldier is abducted, it is an act of war. When a child is kidnapped, it is pure terror. It is this terror that frightens children making them feel like they can no longer feel free to go about their normal routines and their families must constantly take shelter. And, it is for these reasons specifically– the political motivation and lack of adherence to the Hamas kidnap manuals – why the army must continue its aggressive and exhaustive search for the three young victims. A review of Jewish history reveals that terror has been a technique used against the Jewish people since time immemorial, and yet, they have not succeeded.

There is a metaphor of sorts in the Torah reading for this week. Balak the king of Midian sends emissaries to Balaam the prophet to curse the Israelites. In the initial message, he tells Balaam that they are covering the surface of the earth please come and drive the Israelites from the land. Balaam agrees but, in the end Balaam cannot perform the task assigned him by Balak and, in fact, rather than cursing them, he praises and blesses them. This is the story of the Jews. We cannot be erased and we remain, as a group, resilient. The terrorists who abducted the three boys must understand that as well.

About the Author
Dr. Michael Salamon ,a fellow of the American Psychological Association, is an APA Presidential Citation Awardee for his 'transformative work in raising awareness of the prevention and treatment of childhood sexual abuse". He is the founder and director of ADC Psychological Services in New York and Netanya, the author of numerous articles, several psychological tests and books including "The Shidduch Crisis: Causes and Cures" (Urim Publications), "Every Pot Has a Cover" (University Press of America) and "Abuse in the Jewish Community: Religious and Communal Factors that Undermine the Apprehension of Offenders and the Treatment of Victims."
Related Topics
Related Posts