Nancy Hartevelt Kobrin
Psychoanalyst & Counter Terrorist Expert

The power of the pudenda: Hamas’ subliminal message

A couple of months ago I wrote a piece called “The Mosque as Mother.” A senior psychoanalyst and author of “Genocide and Jihad,” Professor Richard L. Rubinstein, wrote to me saying that my analysis was brilliant. Of course that was ego-pleasing feedback. Yet many people’s eyes glaze over in boredom when psychoanalysts talk about unconscious behavior as it is potently uncomfortable, yet potentially helpful knowledge. Then at Jihad Watch, I discovered that my “Mosque as Mother” was being circulated and read in the Arab world as it focused on the Iranian rapper Shahin Najafi. He had become the new Salman Rushdie, being  placed under a death threat on account of his lyrics for Naki and his album cover depicting the dome of the mosque of the 8th Shia Imam as a female breast. He further argued that sexuality in Islam is transparent. I quote from my “Mosque as Mother” piece:

What exactly did he [Najafi] mean by “transparent”? I take him to mean that a perverse sexuality lurks below the surface of Mahdist culture, which hates the female. The dome of the mosque is an unconscious representation of the female breast of the nursing mother. This is the essence of a shame honor culture signifying that there is maternal deprivation and paranoia. They go hand in hand. The little girls and women are abused. With shame, comes blaming the other but hardly ever the mother because the mother is the object to be protected by the little humiliated, shamed boy who witnesses his mother being abused. The little boy feels his mother to be an extension of himself. To see her hit, is for him to feel her pain. He must protect her at all costs. Picture a frightened little boy clinging hysterically to his mother’s skirt.


This same little boy harbors an erotized rage that in many instances exceeds murder itself. It is not just enough to murder; it must in order to redeem honor through blood violence. The hatred and violence is an erotized hatred — the intense hatred of the female that is not satiated by merely murdering.

This got me to thinking about another repeated imagery inflicted upon us by Hamas’s missiles — images of poked out apartments in buildings.

Terrorism is a communication. Many experts look at the strategic dimension of the communication. While this is obviously and extremely important for battle, I also ponder the unconscious psychological communication that Hamas communicates to us while they desperately try to ensnare us in their own projected terrors. They are not only projecting missiles; they are projecting  their rage and how they feel about themselves and their mothers! They are terrified of the mother’s body because she presents a paradox to them — how such a devalued  female can be so powerful as to give birth to a baby, which is something that they can’t do. How could they as macho men be born from a female body? It is a contamination.

So let’s take a moment to consider the difference in imagery between, for example, the classic Al Qaeda truck bombing signature of the East African Embassy bombings or the earlier truck bombings by the Iranians in Lebanon in the early 1980s. There the facade of the building is completely sheared off. If we interpolate this gruesome image into what I call the code of the mother, we can make more systematic sense out of their tumultuous psychotic chaos. All behavior is potentially meaningful. Terrorist behavior seeks to disorganize and terrorize through an extreme unconscious annihilating anxiety that causes others to dissociate and to be in denial. It is as if these terrorists completely mutilate and destroy the face of their mother.

But why? The mutilation of the mother’s face and also body is the attempt to make the mother powerless. In both Arab Muslim and Iranian culture, this is because the male feels emasculated by his dominating mother from whom he is not permitted to separate according to cultural norms. The male must externalize and project his rage outward, not at the mother. The Other is a substitute for the mother. Their own females are also terrified and are caught up in this web of paranoia, rage and hatred of the Other.

The hatred of the Jew/Israel has been collapsed into this early hatred of the female. Simply put, Jew = female. The jihadi rage must engage in mutilation as do serial killers.

The female has merely internalized Hamas rage of the female as self-hatred. Last night we saw this when Ilana Dayan on channel 2  interviewed a young woman in Gaza who blogs against Hamas. Yet this young woman stunningly collapsed into identifying with the murderous rage of Hamas, causing her to blame the Israelis and to identify with the real aggressor in classic Stockholm Syndrome fashion.

I speculate here that this young, articulate woman is so dissociated and terrified, that even she cannot see the forest from the trees, and assumes out of weakness the fallback position of supporting Hamas on Israeli airways. Why? Because Hamas will kill her. They hate the female and she knows it.

Yet, as the old adage goes with regard to blaming, any five-fingered person pointing the finger of blame has three fingers and a thumb pointing right back at him or herself.

To return to my model T Ford reading of Hamas’s missile imagery, unlike Al Qaeda, the imagery is different at least for the moment. Hamas has yet to shear off the facade of buildings; rather it is as if Hamas pokes out the eyes of the shaming mother or seeks to destroy her ranting mouth. The pictures are of Israeli apartment buildings with missiles, poking gaping holes in the facades.

The more specific unconscious communication that Hamas sends to us, and of which they are completely unaware, is that they are very, very unhappy campers, so filled with hatred because once upon a time they were used by their abused mothers as narcissistic objects.

Of course, as male babies, they did not understand this. Yet inevitably the entire maternal attachment for the most formative years of building the brain of the male child, from birth to age 2 when the brain quadruples in size, was placed at risk. The upshot was the creation of a cognitive deficit, leaving them lacking the capacity to perceive reality in a balanced manner and the inability to assume responsibility for their own behavior. They never developed empathy for the female and all Others.

I continue to speculate but as infants they were not able to attach calmly with their mothers. From the imagery that they paint across the canvas of their destruction is a picture of disrupted attachment, which leads to, at the very minimum, a kind of pathological attachment, tipping the scales toward becoming violent. See for example Dr. Kathy Seifert’s “How Children Become Violent.” Hamas does not air drop leaflets warning Gaza civilians like Israelis do.

This is not rocket science. No pun intended, but even Hamas’s rockets have been described by military experts as primitive. The concrete description is apt, articulating unconscious “primitive” infantile behavior. The rockets attach by hitting a building, like a baby crying, screaming in pain. Yet their end objective, unconsciously, subliminally, is to make the mother powerless, to destroy the power of her pudenda, (the external female genitals in Latin which mean “shame”) called the  ‘ird in Arabic, meaning pelvis, the locus of female honor also linked to shame.

I leave you, the reader, with one last image. Hamas claims that it has suicide bombers waiting in waves on its borders to attack. This fits with early Islamic warfare where the females would line up, raise their skirts and expose their pudenda on the battle field. The suicide bomber is the contemporary female counterpart in Hamas’s arsenal. Not too dissimilar from the Iranian children sent to the battlefield with tacky plastic keys to paradise hung around their necks, as their very own adults slaughter these innocents. The child is always identified with the mother. This, then, is really nothing more than extreme hatred of the female masquerading as crude pseudo-honor.

Hamas is a shame-honor terrorist organization embedded in an Arab/Palestinian shame-honor culture, compounding shame at least twofold. This subliminal shame must be understood by those who attempt to negotiate peace. Otherwise we, Israel, will remain forever confused as unwilling substitutes in their paranoid mind’s eye for their terrifying omnipotent-yet-hated mother. Their own thumb points back at whom is really to blame.

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.