Posted on May 6, 2024
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Dr. Eliezer Jones

As I witnessed UCLA student Eli Tsives speak out after being barred from classes by anti-Israel protesters, a stark contrast emerged between him and the protesters confronting him. Eli stood unmasked, visibly asserting his identity and convictions. In contrast, nearly all the protesters wore masks, concealing their faces.

Charles Spurgeon, a renowned English Baptist preacher from the 19th century, once stated, “Never write what you dare not sign. An anonymous letter-writer is akin to an assassin who wears a mask and stabs in the dark. Such a person is a fiend with a pen. If unmasked, this coward would be steeped in the blackest infamy.”

The act of masking by the protesters, who claim to champion a just cause, raises questions about their motives and methods. If their resistance were truly peaceful and lawful, why the need for masks? Excluding a minority who may wear masks for health reasons—given that only about 30% of Americans currently wear masks according to the latest Gallup poll—masking is uncommon. Notably, before the pandemic, wearing masks in groups was illegal in California and many other states, as outlined by California Penal Code 185. The law states, “It shall be unlawful for any person to wear any mask, false whiskers, or any personal disguise (whether complete or partial) for the purpose of evading or escaping discovery, recognition, or identification in the commission of any public offense.” 

True leadership does not hide behind anonymity. What does such leadership conceal if not questionable motives?

In his book Not in God’s Name: Confronting Religious Violence, Rabbi Jonathan Sacks discusses the covert nature of antisemitism: “Note that antisemitism, to succeed, must always disguise its motives. It did so in the Middle Ages by accusing Jews of killing Christian children and spreading the plague. It did so in Nazi Germany in terms drawn from medicine. Jews were the cancer in the midst of the Aryan nation. Today it does so by blaming Israel or Jews, in classic Blood Libel/Protocols of the Elders of Zion style, for controlling America, dominating Europe, manipulating the economy, owning the media, perpetrating 9/11 and all subsequent terrorist attacks, creating AIDS, Ebola, the 2004 tsunami, and global warming.”

Leadership can be masked in many forms. Leaders may hide behind their superiors or subordinates, shirking responsibility. They might project a facade, masking their fears, vulnerabilities, and humanity. They might vary their personas depending on the audience, attempting to please everyone but ultimately satisfying no one. In the case of the protesters, they hide behind the facade of advocating for peace to mask their true goal of spreading antisemitism.

True leadership involves standing resolutely for one’s beliefs, regardless of agreement or opposition, and remaining authentic to oneself and one’s principles. Leaders who feel compelled to don physical or metaphorical masks are not genuinely leading. To lead without a mask is to accept that your decisions will not please everyone, but everyone will recognize that you acted according to your convictions. To do otherwise is to forsake true leadership.