Nancy Hartevelt Kobrin
Psychoanalyst & Counter Terrorist Expert

The Egyptian “Humanist” Terrorist on the Sinai Israeli Border

It read: “The New Egyptian Terrorist – A Young Father and Highly Educated ” — found here,7340,L-4287266,00.html along with a YouTube clip singing in his all male (of course) religious choral group. This was today’s lead story at Ynet in Hebrew, in which it was proclaimed that the terrorists who murdered Netanel Yahalomi z”l in the Sinai Border attack were not Bedouins.

The journalist “hook” completely failed on me. I didn’t take the bait one bit. Okay, so we know that Bedouins have been heavily involved in trafficking drugs, women and the African infiltrators as well as kidnapping, ransoming and extortion. And yes there was the Bedouin attack on Egyptian security in El-Arish. So Bedouins might have been involved. Let’s put that off to the side for the moment and concentrate on the alleged newly discovered traits for profiling Egyptian Islamic terrorists on our doorstep.

These terrorists are young, well educated, relatively well off from a socio-economic point of view being sent from Egypt under Mursi’s watch. This was news worthy? Didn’t anybody hear of the 9/11 highly educated well off Egyptian hijacker named Muhammad Attah? The hijackers of 9/11 were essentially the same – well educated, hardly poor, with leadership under the likes of Egyptian Ayman Zawahiri, the doctor, and many other highly educated engineers involved in jihad.

If these are the “new” attributes for the profile of terrorists — that they are college educated and yet murder in cold blood, the media must fear that the majority of its readership hasn’t picked up an iPad in years to read the news.

No, in the Ynet story, it wasn’t an engineering degree that the terrorist held, rather a degree in literature from the Humanities. Plus he came from a “reputable” family with a father who was an academic. We know nothing about the mother. Women don’t count. The assumption is that someone who studies literature or the Humanities will allegedly be more humane, pardon the pun.

Having spent years teaching in academia in the Humanities, I can tell you that the majority of the Humanities faculty were pretty nasty people lacking empathy and compassion for their cohorts. At this point, I rolled my eyes at this flawed assumption. Furthermore, we know from the tragedy of the Holocaust, that Nazis who were also well educated, managed to go home at the end of a long day after slaughtering thousands of innocent Jewish children, to play with their own, by picking up a violin or sitting down at a piano, allegedly valuing the arts.

The human mind has tremendous capacity to compartmentalize, dissociate and split off its rage targeting innocent others. We also know this from serial killers like Ted Bundy who had a law degree and the Unabomber who graduated from Harvard and was a college professor at MIT.

An academic degree, in an of itself, can not guarantee morality. A humanities degree can not security just behavior. Any degree can easily mask deep-seated developmental problems that when the trigger is right the underlying silent rage becomes weaponized into malignantly pathological terrorist behavior.

Literature and the Humanities can never serve to inoculate those who are cold blooded killers. Why? Because the problem is much deeper than an academic degree going back to early childhood. The brain of the baby quadruples in size prenatal until the age of two. This is the time when the motherboard of the brain is made. This is also the timeframe when cognitive deficits expressed nonverbally by terrorists who fly planes into buildings rather than just fantasizing about knocking down towers made of building blocks is nearly engraved in the hardwiring of the brain. This is THE most fragile time for developing attachments to humanity in a healthy way through predominantly the mother.

Early childhood development has been repeatedly overlooked as the major contributing factor to the profiling of a terrorist. How children become violent (see the work of Kathy Seifert, Ph.D. ) segueing into how young, fairly well off college educated Egyptian Muslims become radicalized and turned into terrorists, is not difficult to understand nor should it be surprising. The key question is why do these terrorists lack empathy?

Again, empathy is built into the brain in the early years. To the best of my knowledge Intel hasn’t invented a computer chip for empathy as an add on to the brain as of yet.

As for the Bedouins in Sinai, it remains to be seen if they will cross the Red line into Islamic Salafidom induced terrorism or if they will remain satisfied to engage in deadly criminality. What can be hazard, is that their childhood probably “sucked” as demonstrated by their penchant for criminal activities. Stay tuned, time will tell. The picture, however, is not pretty.

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.