This year’s Black History Month became a special one for Michael Abraham when the twenty year-old McMaster undergraduate became the first recipient of the inaugural Nelson Mandela Award at the recent John C. Holland Awards ceremony on Feb. 1.

The first-year Social Science student was thrilled to receive the new award commemorating the late black icon, but humbly acknowledged he wasn’t expecting to win anything.

“I thought all the awards for youth achievement had been handed out, so I thought, ‘Oh well, I guess I didn’t win anything this year, it’s cool’.”

Abraham said his dejection quickly turned to elation when he heard his name called in connection with an award that is meant to go to a young member of Hamilton’s black community who “rises above challenge and difficulty to make a difference” and “uses the spirit of kindness and helpfulness to build a better and more inclusive community.”

Having lived in Cape Town, South Africa for a decade, Abraham is well versed in the anti-apartheid leader’s accomplishments and said the award was “a lot to live up to”.

Abraham is heavily involved in social work as a director of programming for the Youth Action Council of the NGen Youth Centre, a Summer Literacy Camp counselor for the Focus on Youth Program and a volunteer in the learning resource office at Hess Street Elementary School.

To keep up with his studies, Abraham said he’s had to make sacrifices like stepping down from his previously mentioned position within the Youth Action Council so that he could devote more time to studying and Steel Express, a breakdancing group he teaches.

He’s been asked to take on a more senior role within Steel Express as the two founders look to bolster funds for a retreat called “Breaking Barriers” in March, but he relishes the added responsibility.

Abraham is aware of the privilege he’s been afforded in coming to Canada and takes any opportunity he can to pay his dues, noting that he is indebted to multiple mentors who have helped develop him into who he is today.

“I always felt that I needed to do something to pay back the fact that I’m here when I felt unworthy of that.”

He was also quick to point out that the old adage, “do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life,” rings true in his case.

“I just really enjoy working with others and learn so much from each experience. As I’m helping them, they’re helping me just as much”

Abraham would look to emulate the modesty and drive that Mandela exemplified in the future.

Waleed Ahmed / Silhouette Staff

In what has become a routine exercise of obsequious bowing and servile complacence, Minister of Citizenship and Immigration Jason Kenney yet again pays homage to the State of Israel. Similar to last year, he released a statement condemning Israeli Apartheid Week (IAW), which is currently being organized on university campuses across the globe.

Kenney likens IAW to ‘hateful and intolerant rhetoric’ and ‘anti-Semitism’. Based on the statement, it is fair to assume that the honourable Minister has never actually visited the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT); or perhaps he did, but his love for Israel might have blinded him from seeing the atrocities being committed in these lands.

If he were to visit the OPT, Minister Kenney would be able to witness the Jewish-only colonies that Israel has established there. These cantons are luxurious settlement blocks designed with the intention of ‘Judiazing’ Palestinian land. 220 settlements currently mean that 43 per cent of the West Bank is reserved for exclusive Jewish use. Palestinians can’t live there and need special permits to enter for occasional work. They are confined to their own ethnic enclaves where they live largely under sub-standard conditions, thanks to the now 46-year-old Israeli occupation.

If he were to visit, the honourable Minister would also notice the Israeli-only roads connecting Jewish colonies to each other and to Israel. While being built on occupied Palestinian land, this network of modern highways is practically inaccessible to Palestinians. A draconian regime of permits and checkpoints ensure that they use an inferior system of circuitous dirt roads, tunnels and sub-level streets to avoid the Jewish settlements. Palestinians are humiliated and delayed at these checkpoints on a daily basis; students miss class, patients aren’t able to make it to hospitals in time. At least 39 cases of deaths at check points have been documented. All the while Israeli residents in the same area have unfettered access to modern highways.

If he were to visit, Minster Kenney would also notice the dual legal systems that are implemented in the West Bank. In areas under Israeli control, Jewish settlers are subject to civilian law while Palestinians are subject to brutal military laws. This system violates the basic essence of equality before the law; especially given the vast difference in the two systems. Two sets of laws for two people; the ethnicity of the culprit determines one’s chances at a fair trail.

It is particularly ironic, and distasteful, for this statement to be coming from our Minister of Immigration. Israel openly exercises one of the world’s most blatantly racist immigration and citizenship policies. The Law of Return guarantees that Jews from anywhere in the world can immigrate to Israel or the OPT and live there. Yet, it disallows Palestinians who were expelled or fled during the 1948 and 1967 wars to return to their homes. Jews with no prior ties to Israel can immigrate to it; indigenous people of the land are barred for entering their homes – a policy in clear violation of the Geneva Conventions.

Citizenship policies are also just as discriminatory. While a Jewish immigrant living in the West Bank is granted citizenship, Palestinians in the adjacent neighbourhoods are not given the same privilege. Furthermore, Palestinians are who have ‘permanent residency’ status in East Jerusalem have to continually prove their ‘center of life’ is in Jerusalem in order to hold on to this status. Jews in the same area are not subject to any of these bogus polices.

Minister Kenny naively wonders why organizers of Israeli Apartheid Week chose to ignore other atrocities around the globe and focused on Israel. His press release is the answer to the very question: The Canadian government is complicit in whitewashing and supporting a brutally oppressive occupation regime.

By invoking the anti-Semitism card, our government has actively stifled voices of those criticizing the Israeli occupation; this gives us all the more reason to continue organizing Israeli Apartheid Week.

Our government’s scandalous and unholy love affair with Israel needs to come to an end. This blinding and decadent ordeal has lasted far too long. Passions have run high and judgments have been impaired. Cupid no doubt made a mistake, but oppression cannot justify love. Oppression must end and so must this love story.


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