Nancy Hartevelt Kobrin
Psychoanalyst & Counter Terrorist Expert

Who Were The Hamas Zarqawis at Kfar Aza? Part III

Source: Wikicommons

Part III On The Beheading Of The Jewish Babies

How to Decode Hamas’s Psychosis

War Blog #20

To recap War Blog #19 Part II the issues raised were animals or objects?, the fantasy world made concrete, pathological lying, decapitation, all coalescing to yield the tragic atrocity of the beheading of Jewish babies, a paradigm shift but also a deepening psychotic regression. The photo of the little girl in play therapy cited above is key to understanding how to decode Hamas’s psychosis and will be explained below.

Thus far we have seen that “the seeds are planted” early for jihadis such as Hamas, but no one is born a terrorist. There are multifactorial issues coming into play such as genetics, history of trauma, intergenerational transmission of trauma, epigenetics, etc. but the key factor tipping the scales is most likely maternal attachment. The fact is jihadis are not permitted to ever psychological separate from their mothers. They are emasculated and very confused with regard to their identity and hatred of the mother translated into hatred of the female with all “others” being feminized, most especially the Jew hence all the Jew hatred.

The Prenatal Mother is the dirty little secret to unlocking or decoding the unconscious meaning of their violent behavior left at the crime scene. In psychoanalysis it is understood almost universally that such violence is related to the prenatal mother and the hidden wish of the jihadis to return to the womb – the prelapsarian utopic time where according to their fantasy all their needs are met.

All behavior is potentially meaningful. By this I mean unconscious meaning in addition to the alleged “rational” strategic and tactical behaviors. For ex. what else could Hamas be communicating unconsciously about their state of mind when they have chosen to store fuel under the hospital? In an earlier blog I described the “Metro,” their elaborate tunnel city system as a concrete representation of their psychosis. Fuel makes me think of embryonic fluid and their terrors that the placenta will break and they will lose their reclusive safety of the womb. The hospital is a maternal image where one is tended to. They act out this terror through the placement of fuel under the hospital.

We turn to the concept of acting out to get a better idea of this nonverbal pantomime that they engage it. The definition in part is taken from my Jihadi Dictionary.

Acting Out

Acting out is a process frequently seen in play therapy, where children have the opportunity to play out their most violent behavior and repressed fantasies. Often these acts are attacks against the mother, who is seen as the source of painful dependency needs and nurturing. The breast that is needed is also the breast that needs to be destroyed―e.g., beheadings, rage against their mothers, the need to get rid of her, to violently separate from her.

Jihadis manifest extreme attention-seeking behavior …. “watching somebody else doing an action is just like doing the action yourself.” Among jihadis, acting out means expressing this concrete process about the mother’s body and their terrors. Regarding beheadings, for example, unlike the Queen in the fictional narrative Alice in Wonderland who says “Off with her head” that I mentioned in my preceding blog the fantasy is not followed through, the jihadi acts out in real time and concretely cuts off the baby’s head. However, the act itself is misplaced unconscious rage aimed at eliminating the power of the mother’s critical comments by cutting off her head to get rid of her shaming accusatory eye. Think of the evil eye.

An FBI analyst said the following concerning the identification of radicalization of jihadis as they begin to prepare: “If we can look at your life and see you’re at the preparation phase — you’re shooting paintballs, you’re exercising daily, you’re preparing — that’s concerning to us. We look at the things in your life that will keep you from acting out [emphasis added] versus the things that are encouraging that. And if it’s entirely lopsided, then you’re either much higher risk or much lower risk.”

Importing Play Therapy Transposed on to Hamas’s Behavior

The photo of a little girl in play therapy above with a toy airplane about to attack the baby in the cradle communicates her envy, attacking rage but also displays her inner self screaming about her unmet needs. I draw a parallel between that little girl who is working through her rage to process and understand it and to put her feelings to words to the jihadis who never achieved that psychological level of development.

I came to understand jihadis’ unconscious, dissociated, psychotic behavior by observing their actions. I found myself asking what were they desperately trying to communicate through the graphic display of their violent behavior―beheadings, the gruesome and tragic burning of the Jordanian pilot in a cage by the Islamic State, and the suicide bombings. I began to think of the jihadis as if they were little children in play therapy, although obviously their behavior is lethal.

While their actions are not play, the jihadis speak to us in a rageful pantomime about their early childhood terrors, which have been encrypted in their violent ideologies of hatred. One should never take at face value anything a jihadi says during an interview; rather, one needs to note how their bodies speak through unconscious pantomime, how their body language oozes rage. Contemporary thinking about persons with malignant borderline and psychotic personality disorders, which includes the jihadis, is that they lack empathy as well as unconscious guilt; rather, theirs is externalized, shame-induced, violently acted out behavior. Because jihadis come from shaming cultures, they were denied the opportunity to play and work through their fantasy life; instead, they became psychotically sadistic and cruel which leads to crime such as the fateful beheading of the Jewish babies at Kfar Aza.

To conclude by understanding the depths of Hamas’s psychosis we hold a critical tool in this war because their pre-existing rage, a rage that exceeds murder itself, really has nothing to do with the ideologies they grasp on to in order to justify such blood shed. Just as importantly, the Islamic “Masse und Macht,” the global mobs of antisemitism have fallen into Hamas’s trap of the identification with the aggressor because of Hamas’s manifest extreme attention-seeking behavior …. watching them doing such a horrific action is just like doing the action themselves. They too have a fused group psychosis and vicariously act out their hidden rage against their own mothers.


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.