Saturday, January 26, 2008

Prepare for hard economic times: Harper

Last Updated: Friday, January 25, 2008 | 7:48 PM ET
CBC News
Canadians cannot afford to be complacent about the economy because recent problems in the financial markets won't be disappearing any time soon, Prime Minister Stephen Harper told members of his caucus on Friday.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper waves to supporters, workers and members of the federal Conservative caucus following his speech in Ottawa Friday.
(Tom Hanson/Canadian Press)
Harper, speaking in Ottawa on the second anniversary of his election, said that even though the Canadian economy is still strong, jobs are threatened in traditional industries and Canadian families are coping with budget strains.

"Recent volatility in financial markets, emanating mostly from the U.S., may be with us for some time to come," Harper said.

"We are aware of these challenges. We have acted and we will continue to act for regions and sectors that are in difficulty, like manufacturing, forestry, fishing and tourism. We will also continue to take measures to strengthen agriculture."

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Harper, delivering what sounded at times like a campaign speech, hinted that a federal election may be coming, but that he and his party will continue to focus on their jobs as leaders.

As his party members cheered and waved banners bearing his name, Harper listed off the accomplishments he said his party has achieved since the Conservatives ousted the Liberals from power in the Jan. 23, 2006, federal election.

Harper noted that his government has stiffened Canada's crime laws and introduced a child care benefit payment to help families with children under age six.

He said the economy has been strong under his watch — unemployment is at its lowest level over three decades, income tax and the GST have been reduced, billions of dollars of Canada's debt have been paid off and inflation and interest rates remain low, while the average income of households is rising.

Harper suggested that he and his fellow Conservatives are the right people to guide Canada through turbulent economic times.

"In times of economic uncertainty, what Canadians need most is strong, steady, certain leadership that's on their side," he said. "It's what Canada deserves, it's what Canadians demand."

No mention of Afghan detainees
Harper did not address the issue of Afghan detainees, which has been a controversial topic this past week.

At a Federal Court hearing on Thursday, Brig.-Gen. André Deschamps confirmed that Canadian troops stopped handing over detainees to Afghan authorities in November after a prison visit found evidence of torture.

The disclosure prompted accusations of a coverup from opposition parties, but the government has denied the allegations, saying it was up to the Canadian army to disclose matters related to military operations.

Manley report is 'strong, balanced and realistic'
Harper did touch on the Manley report on the mission in Afghanistan in his speech, calling it a "good one, strong, balanced and realistic."

The report, prepared by former Liberal cabinet minister John Manley, recommended that Canada's military remain in Afghanistan beyond the current February 2009 timeline, provided Canadian forces are backed by an additional contingent of 1,000 NATO soldiers and provided with new, medium-lift helicopters and high-performance unmanned aerial vehicles for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance.

Harper, who commissioned the report, did not say whether he will adopt its recommendations. He did say he doesn't take any decisions about the Afghan mission and the current troop withdrawal date of February 2009 lightly.

"On a matter of national and global security like this, we will never make a decision based on polls," he said. "We will make a decision based on what is right for this country."

Worse Than a Crime

Worse Than a Crime

By Uri Avnery

26/01/08 "ICH" -- - IT LOOKED like the fall of the Berlin wall. And not only did it look like it. For a moment, the Rafah crossing was the Brandenburg Gate.

It is impossible not to feel exhilaration when masses of oppressed and hungry people break down the wall that is shutting them in, their eyes radiant, embracing everybody they meet - to feel so even when it is your own government that erected the wall in the first place.

The Gaza Strip is the largest prison on earth. The breaking of the Rafah wall was an act of liberation. It proves that an inhuman policy is always a stupid policy: no power can stand up against a mass of people that has crossed the border of despair.

That is the lesson of Gaza, January, 2008.

ONE MIGHT repeat the famous saying of the French statesman Boulay de la Meurthe, slightly amended: It is worse than a war crime, it is a blunder!

Months ago, the two Ehuds - Barak and Olmert - imposed a blockade on the Gaza Strip, and boasted about it. Lately they have tightened the deadly noose even more, so that hardly anything at all could be brought into the Strip. Last week they made the blockade absolute - no food, no medicines. Things reached a climax when they stopped the fuel, too. Large areas of Gaza remained without electricity - incubators for premature babies, dialysis machines, pumps for water and sewage. Hundreds of thousands remained without heating in the severe cold, unable to cook, running out of food.

Again and again, Aljazeera broadcast the pictures into millions of homes in the Arab world. TV stations all over the world showed them, too. From Casablanca to Amman angry mass protest broke out and frightened the authoritarian Arab regimes. Hosny Mubarak called Ehud Barak in panic. That evening Barak was compelled to cancel, at least temporarily, the fuel-blockade he had imposed in the morning. Apart from that, the blockade remained total.

It is hard to imagine a more stupid act.

THE REASON given for the starving and freezing of one and a half million human beings, crowded into a territory of 365 square kilometers, is the continued shooting at the town of Sderot and the adjoining villages.

That is a well-chosen reason. It unites the primitive and poor parts of the Israeli public. It blunts the criticism of the UN and the governments throughout the world, who might otherwise have spoken out against a collective punishment that is, undoubtedly, a war crime under international law.

A clear picture is presented to the world: the Hamas terror regime in Gaza launches missiles at innocent Israeli civilians. No government in the world can tolerate the bombardment of its citizens from across the border. The Israeli military has not found a military answer to the Qassam missiles. Therefore there is no other way than to exert such strong pressure on the Gaza population as to make them rise up against Hamas and compel them to stop the missiles.

The day the Gaza electricity works stopped operating, our military correspondents were overjoyed: only two Qassams were launched from the Strip. So it works! Ehud Barak is a genius!

But the day after, 17 Qassams landed, and the joy evaporated. Politicians and generals were (literally) out of their minds: one politician proposed to "act crazier than them", another proposed to "shell Gaza's urban area indiscriminately for every Qassam launched", a famous professor (who is a little bit deranged) proposed the exercise of "ultimate evil".

The government scenario was a repeat of Lebanon War II (the report about which is due to be published in a few days). Then: Hizbullah captured two soldiers on the Israeli side of the border, now: Hamas fired on towns and villages on the Israeli side of the border. Then: the government decide in haste to start a war, now: the government decided in haste to impose a total blockade. Then: the government ordered the massive bombing of the civilian population in order to get them to pressure Hizbullah, now: the government decided to cause massive suffering of the civilian population in order to get them to pressure Hamas.

The results were the same in both cases: the Lebanese population did not rise up against Hizbullah, but on the contrary, people of all religious communities united behind the Shiite organization. Hassan Nasrallah became the hero of the entire Arab world. And now: the population unites behind Hamas and accuses Mahmoud Abbas of cooperation with the enemy. A mother who has no food for her children does not curse Ismail Haniyeh, she curses Olmert, Abbas and Mubarak.

SO WHAT to do? After all, it is impossible to tolerate the suffering of the inhabitants of Sderot, who are under constant fire.

What is being hidden from the embittered public is that the launching of the Qassams could be stopped tomorrow morning.

Several months ago Hamas proposed a cease-fire. It repeated the offer this week.

A cease-fire means, in the view of Hamas: the Palestinians will stop shooting Qassams and mortar shells, the Israelis will stop the incursions into Gaza, the "targeted" assassinations and the blockade.

Why doesn't our government jump at this proposal?

Simple: in order to make such a deal, we must speak with Hamas, directly or indirectly. And this is precisely what the government refuses to do.

Why? Simple again: Sderot is only a pretext - much like the two captured soldiers were a pretext for something else altogether. The real purpose of the whole exercise is to overthrow the Hamas regime in Gaza and to prevent a Hamas takeover in the West Bank.

In simple and blunt words: the government sacrifices the fate of the Sderot population on the altar of a hopeless principle. It is more important for the government to boycott Hamas - because it is now the spearhead of Palestinian resistance - than to put an end to the suffering of Sderot. All the media cooperate with this pretence.

IT HAS been said before that it is dangerous to write satire in our country - too often the satire becomes reality. Some readers may recall a satirical article I wrote months ago. In it I described the situation in Gaza as a scientific experiment designed to find out how far one can go, in starving a civilian population and turning their lives into hell, before they raise their hands in surrender.

This week, the satire has become official policy. Respected commentators declared explicitly that Ehud Barak and the army chiefs are working on the principle of "trial and error" and change their methods daily according to results. They stop the fuel to Gaza, observe how this works and backtrack when the international reaction is too negative. They stop the delivery of medicines, see how it works, etc. The scientific aim justifies the means.

The man in charge of the experiment is Defense Minister Ehud Barak, a man of many ideas and few scruples, a man whose whole turn of mind is basically inhuman. He is now, perhaps, the most dangerous person in Israel, more dangerous than Ehud Olmert and Binyamin Netanyahu, dangerous to the very existence of Israel in the long run.

The man in charge of execution is the Chief of Staff. This week we had the chance of hearing speeches by two of his predecessors, generals Moshe Ya'alon and Shaul Mofaz, in a forum with inflated intellectual pretensions. Both were discovered to have views that place them somewhere between the extreme Right and the ultra-Right. Both have a frighteningly primitive mind. There is no need to waste a word about the moral and intellectual qualities of their immediate successor, Dan Halutz. If these are the voices of the three last Chiefs of Staff, what about the incumbent, who cannot speak out as openly as they? Has this apple fallen further from the tree?

Until three days ago, the generals could entertain the opinion that the experiment was succeeding. The misery in the Gaza Strip had reached its climax. Hundreds of thousands were threatened by actual hunger. The chief of UNRWA warned of an impending human catastrophe. Only the rich could still drive a car, heat their homes and eat their fill. The world stood by and wagged its collective tongue. The leaders of the Arab states voiced empty phrases of sympathy without raising a finger.

Barak, who has mathematical abilities, could calculate when the population would finally collapse.

AND THEN something happened that none of them foresaw, in spite of the fact that it was the most foreseeable event on earth.

When one puts a million and a half people in a pressure cooker and keeps turning up the heat, it will explode. That is what happened at the Gaza-Egypt border.

At first there was a small explosion. A crowd stormed the gate, Egyptian policemen opened live fire, dozens were wounded. That was a warning.

The next day came the big attack. Palestinian fighters blew up the wall in many places. Hundreds of thousands broke out into Egyptian territory and took a deep breath. The blockade was broken.

Even before that, Mubarak was in an impossible situation. Hundreds of millions of Arabs, a billion Muslims, saw how the Israeli army had closed the Gaza strip off on three sides: the North, the East and the sea. The fourth side of the blockade was provided by the Egyptian army.

The Egyptian president, who claims the leadership of the entire Arab world, was seen as a collaborator with an inhuman operation conducted by a cruel enemy in order to gain the favor (and the money) of the Americans. His internal enemies, the Muslim Brothers, exploited the situation to debase him in the eyes of his own people.

It is doubtful if Mubarak could have persisted in this position. But the Palestinian masses relieved him of the need to make a decision. They decided for him. They broke out like a tsunami wave. Now he has to decide whether to succumb to the Israeli demand to re-impose the blockade on his Arab brothers.

And what about Barak's experiment? What's the next step? The options are few:

(a) To re-occupy Gaza. The army does not like the idea. It understands that this would expose thousands of soldiers to a cruel guerilla war, which would be unlike any intifada before.

(b) To tighten the blockade again and exert extreme pressure on Mubarak, including the use of Israeli influence on the US Congess to deprive him of the billions he gets every year for his services.

(c) To turn the curse into a blessing, by handing the Strip over to Mubarak, pretending that this was Barak's hidden aim all along. Egypt would have to safeguard Israel's security, prevent the launching of Qassams and expose its own soldiers to a Palestinian guerilla war - when it thought it was rid of the burden of this poor and barren area, and after the infrastructure there has been destroyed by the Israeli occupation. Probably Mubarak will say: Very kind of you, but no thanks.

The brutal blockade was a war crime. And worse: it was a stupid blunder.

9/11 Blacklist

9/11 Blacklist: Using Our Dollars for Change

CasaZaza -

In the six years since the tragic events of September 11th, 2001, the mainstream media in America has largely been a mouthpiece of the Bush administration. All of the major networks including ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, and others had until recently, been silently complicit in the cover-up of the events of that day, the un-Constitutional wars that would follow, and the steady erosion of our Constitutionally protected rights.

When the “9-11 Truth” community grew to the point that it could no longer be ignored, these same networks that had ignored the issue for so long began to attack individuals and groups of individuals who were seeking answers to the lingering questions which still remain about 9-11. As the success of various truth movements continues to broaden, these attacks have now escalated to include Peace activists, monetary reform activists, and now even supporters of Presidential candidate Ron Paul. Recent attacks have suggested that the 9-11 movement, Peace activists, and Ron Paul supporters are terrorists, and some in the media have implied that we should be silenced.

THEREFORE: We intend to compile a comprehensive Black List of the advertisers who support this anti-American programming and urge concerned parties to boycott these products and services until the product advertisements are pulled.

We take these attacks very seriously and regard them as a frontal assault on our freedom and liberty as Americans. The garbage coming from the talking heads makes a mockery of the First Amendment to the Constitution and MUST NOT go unopposed. We must take a stand against this kind of yellow journalism and we think we have a way to make these networks feel our presence. All network television and radio are driven by advertising dollars. We can get the networks attention by targeting their sponsors, and therefore, have an impact on their advertising revenues. The most effective way of doing this is to boycott the products and services of the advertisers which choose to advertise on these various networks. There is strength in numbers and we need to make ourselves heard by hitting them where it hurts, in the pocket-book. This site is dedicated to beginning that process.

On the grand chessboard of the power elite in this world, we may only represent insignificant entities insofar as we are concerned as individuals. However, when considered as a group, we have the potential for considerable influence. Our strength in numbers only serves our cause to the detriment when we blindly live our lives as an economic engine for the ruling class - it is our ignorance that works against us. Our strength is the realization of millions of independent thinkers who can influence the cause of freedom by affecting change where we ourselves hold the most power - as in boycotts of key industries and products.

There is another philosophical aspect to this direction of thought - there is no point in fighting fear and violence with the same methods used by those set against you - in which case you risk becoming that which you oppose. When we are illuminated with the light of truth and understanding, we can then use that power to influence the course of events and effect change. How long could they last if a majority of the people started to boycott key industries and products the corporations are dependent upon for rising profits?

Too often people feel, can feel helpless against the giant machine of corporatism. 911 Blacklist gives us the opportunity and the mechanism by which we can take back control. I urge everyone to get involved with this project - indeed, the only way it can work is if a sufficient number of people realize the power we hold collectively.


Shopping Our Way to Destruction


Shopping our way to safety. Listening to the conventional wisdom about the need for economic stimulus to avoid recession you never get the big picture:

Gail the Actuary points out that debt gets harder to pay back after the peak

Kunstler of course has been predicting the end of the sprawl housing bubble for several years.

And if us NA consumers consume 32 times what the average person consumes in the developing world (Diamond) and we're at peak everything now, where our rate of use, pop X footprint, means increasingly less of everything in our future, how profoundly unethical is it to add $145 billion in debt just to get America spending so that we avoid the bid R for a couple of more quarters - spending on becoming more obese, more addicted to toys, travel and stupid financial scams like rec homes.

What kind of democracy do we have given this appalling lack of vision and leadership - I don't hear Layton or May, Obama or Clinton leading in educating people about the stupidity of this short termism, this myopia, this Church of Business need for spending billions of our kids future to save businesses and business people from their foolishness, from their overreach, from their bubbles.

And all those in forest dependent towns now facing no mill jobs for maybe forever are just the tip of the iceberg for the meltdown that's coming.

Collapse: Walmart and Waiting for the Shoe to Drop
Written by Alice Friedemann

As I screwed in yet another fluorescent light bulb that didn't work, I thought about what else I could do to put my finger in the dike of the "Limits to Growth." I can almost hear ecosystems groan as they nearly burst from the weight of heavy metals, pavement, and drought.

Jared Diamond, in "Collapse," believes ecology plays a major role in the breakdown of civilizations.

But Jonathan Friedman, at Lund University in Sweden (1), counters that Diamond has it backwards. The social logic of civilization makes limits opaque to its citizens, who can't even see there are limits imposed by natural resources, so they don't plan ahead. A good example is not preparing for peak oil thirty years ahead of time, as Robert Hirsch points out ought to be done, in the study he headed for the U.S. Dept. of Energy, "Peaking of World Oil Production." (2)

This blindness is evident in the Presidential campaign as well, where none of the candidates is running on a platform of the need to reform industrial agriculture, drastically reduce our consumption of goods and energy, or slow down development and population growth.

Friedman says this disconnect with reality is most powerfully expressed by Kafka, where the characters are trapped in ways of seeing the world they can't see beyond. At a time when most of the world's problems are due to the depletion and destruction of the ecosystems that keep us alive, politicians and people in general continue to see the world through political and economic filters.

Even those of us awake to the world being one big cockroach about to get smashed by energy limits, are trapped likes ants in the amber of the system.

What's ridiculous is that we, personally, are supposed to save the world, not collective action. We're on our own, without government and corporate help. PG&E, the northern California utility that serves five million customers, is encouraging us to buy long-lasting fluorescent light bulbs. It sounds like a bad joke -- how many Californians does it take to screw in a light bulb to prevent The Collapse of Civilization As We Know It?

Andrew Szasz, in his new book "Shopping Our Way to Safety," says that our government and regulatory agencies have been so weakened, we've lost hope in collective action. Szasz finds that chilling -- we can't shop our way out of our problems, no matter how many green goods we buy, and thinking that we can gives us less urgency to fight for meaningful reform.

Buying organic is only possible for people who can afford to pay extra, and doesn't do much to change the way food is grown. Agriculture should be at the top of the reform list, because it does the most damage. The way we grow food destroys topsoil, depletes aquifers and fossil fuels, eutrophies water, and poisons land and water with petrochemicals.

As we all know, shopping is what got us into this fix to begin with. Yet we continue to throw hungry devices that suck ever more electric power into the System, like primitives sacrificing goats to the Gods, unable to stop because the financial structure depends on endless growth. The Beast must not only be fed, but mended as it ages and falls apart, its sagging bridges, pitted roads, rusting fresh water pipelines, and aging dams perpetually patched.

Walmart executives must have realized they had to cut back on energy to make profits, and they're trying to turn this to their advantage by Greening their image, hoping to win back the millions of affluent customers who've been boycotting them for years.

On the one hand, it's great that WalMart has decided to green up their image. We need corporations and governments to take the lead in making a transition, since they're the institutions using most of the energy and natural resources.

But as many have pointed out, how can Walmart even be slightly green? They're the main corporation that turned China into a cesspool of coal fumes, sewage, and chemicals to produce throwaway goods, whipping the gyre of consumption into the global tornado that's devoured the flesh of the earth and poured our trees, fish, clean water, topsoil, oil, and metal into cheap goods. They're at the center of the vortex, keeping it spinning, the essence of the delusion we live in. How on earth can they become Green?

Those helping with the WalMart makeover point out that since Walmart is such a large part of the problem, Greening WalMart will have more impact than changing light bulbs. They want to do something, even if in the end, it doesn't do much to avert collapse.

As I see the giant foot overhead drawing nearer, and knowing that my own feeble attempts to hold it at bay are pointless, I can't disagree. We all do what we can, what we think will help, if only to forget we're cockroaches for a while.

* * * * *

Alice Friedemann, January 20, 2008
Alice has been part of the peak oil community since discussions began on energyresources listserve, and has attended many ASPO conferences. She’s spoken at U. C. Berkeley on biofuels and published at culturechange, energybulletin, energypulse, theoildrum, etc. She was a senior-level systems architect and engineer for 25 years in health care, banking, and transportation. Her website is

* * * * *

(1) Robert Costanza, et. al. 2007. "Sustainability or Collapse? An Integrated History and Future of People on Earth". MIT Press.

(2) Peaking of World Oil Production: Impacts, Mitigation and Risk Management, Robert L. Hirsch, SAIC:

For-Profit Health Care: More than one way to scan a CAT

by Mickey Z.

Since just about every refrigerator automatically comes with a meat drawer, butter shelf, and egg rack, it should come as no surprise that most homes are predictably equipped with a medicine chest. Taking such inevitability further along its natural progression, those in the health care…I mean, disease care field fully expect to be regularly treating patients with a fair amount of body fat.

Case in point: About six years ago, my wife Michele began experiencing severe abdominal discomfort—in the lower right quadrant. Ever cautious about subjecting herself to the demoralizing disease care labyrinth, she was in no hurry to visit our local emergency room. However, when the pain became too much to ignore, the emergency room is precisely where we ended up…at nearly midnight.

A male complaining of pain in the lower right abdomen would’ve garnered an almost immediate diagnosis of appendicitis. For women, it requires further testing. This reality became particularly germane when we realized that the Computed Axial Tomography (CAT) Scan technician was not on duty so late at night and the attending physician could not prescribe a painkiller until a diagnosis was made (which, of course, required the CAT Scan technician). Not exactly Grey’s Anatomy or ER, huh?

Roughly twelve agonizing hours later, a scan was finally performed…but shortly afterwards, a doctor came to speak with me. It seems the test results were, shall we say, inconclusive.

“Your wife is too thin,” the man in the white coat told me. “Her body fat is so low that we can’t get the contrast we need on the scan.” Just perfect, I thought to myself. It’s absolutely ideal that a defective system like this is designed to deal specifically with those who have bought into the standard American diet/lifestyle.

Michele’s family had arrived by then and thought it was amusing to remark that the body fat/contrast conundrum proved that she needed to change her vegan eating habits. After what turned out to be seventeen hours of waiting in misery until finally being scheduled for an appendectomy, Michele was clearly in no mood to laugh.

I’ll tell you what else isn’t comical about the disease care cartels: nutrition training at America’s medical schools. An April 2006 study, published in American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, found that “the amount of nutrition education in medical schools remains inadequate” and 60 percent of medical schools in the United States are not meeting minimum recommendations for their students’ nutrition education. Only 32 of the 106 schools surveyed (30% percent) even required a separate nutrition course. Thus, even the most well-meaning and diligent physician is often ill equipped to offer legitimate help within the structure he or she was trained in.

“Doctors typically aren't given much training in nutrition and some so-called nutrition experts are not well qualified in that field,” says Neal Pinckney, M.D., author of The Healthy Heart Handbook. “A large sample of physicians was asked how much training they got in nutrition in medical school. The average was less than three hours, with many having only one hour or less. That's out of nearly 3,500 hours of medical training. The truth is that doctors may get their nutrition information from the same newspapers and TV programs we do, and unless they have taken extra training in nutrition, they may not know much more about nutrition than the rest of us.”

No wonder hospital food is so, uh, frightening. The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine reviewed hospital menus in 2005 and found that “on many days at some hospitals, patients and visitors cannot find a low-fat, cholesterol-free entree in the main cafeteria or restaurant. Fewer than one-third of hospitals surveyed offered either a daily salad bar or a daily low-fat vegetarian entree” (17 percent of the responding hospitals had a fast-food establishment on the premises). When asked for their “healthiest entree” recipe, 62 percent of these offerings derived more than 30 percent of calories from fat, and a few derived more than 50 percent of calories from fat.

Hey, I guess they’re just making sure those expensive CAT Scans can find contrast.

Mickey Z. is the author of the forthcoming novel, CPR for Dummies (Raw Dog Screaming Press. He can be found on the Web at

Thursday, January 24, 2008

UN: Canada Alone Votes Down Gaza Relief Resolution

UNHRC slams Israel's actions in Gaza

The United Nations Human Rights Council condemned Israel for the 15th time in less than two years on Thursday. Only one other nation, Myanmar (ex-Burma), has been condemned by the council in that time.

Palestinians return with groceries from Egypt to the Gaza Strip at Rafah border crossing.
Photo: AP
"We have witnessed another round of the circus," Israel's Ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva Yitzhak Levanon told The Jerusalem Post by telephone following the vote held during a special session on Israeli actions in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. "I think that this is a farce," Levanon said.

Both Israel and the United States boycotted the proceedings, which ended with a call for Israel to lift its siege of Gaza but made no mention of the Palestinian rocket attacks on communities in the western Negev.

With the support of 30 out of 47 countries, the council released a statement calling on Israel to stop its military operations in Gaza and to open the Strip's borders to allow the entry of food, fuel and medicine.

Rockets not mentioned in UNSC draft
Israeli human rights groups back campaign calling to end Gaza siege

It asked the international community to insure that Israel stop its actions in Gaza, which it referred to as "collective punishment of the Palestinian civilians that leads to disastrous humanitarian and environmental consequences."

Canada was the only country to vote against the resolution put forward by Syria and Pakistan on behalf of the Organization of the Islamic Conference. Fifteen countries, including seven from the EU, abstained. Gabon's representatives absented themselves from the vote.

Canada's representative, Terry Cormier, said his country was concerned by both the situation of the Palestinians in Gaza and the attacks against Israelis.

"Unfortunately, neither this resolution nor the current session addressed the role of both parties. It was regretful that the current draft resolution did not condemn the rocket attacks on Israeli civilians," Cormier said.

The EU ambassadors said they abstained because they, too, were concerned by the one-sided nature of the resolution.

"We believe that this council should deplore the fact that innocent civilians on both sides are suffering," Slovenian Ambassador Andrej Logar said on behalf of the seven EU states on the council.

Still, Muriel Berset Kohen, who represents the non-EU-member Switzerland, which also abstained, told the council that Israeli actions "went against international law."

Syria's representative, Faysal Khabbaz Hamoui, said he had called the session to stop the "brutal aggression" of the Israeli people. The IDF, he said, had killed 90 civilians and the border closures had turned Gaza into a "huge prison of 1.4 million people."

The Palestinian representative in Geneva said the resolution was intended to highlight abuses committed by Israel.

"We recognize Israel, but we are against what Israel is practicing against our people," Muhammad Abu Koash told journalists after the meeting.

Earlier, he told the council that "if Jewish cities were exposed to such... annihilation it would have prompted immediate international" action.

Levanon told the Post he was proud that Israel had for the first time boycotted the council session. He said he had made it clear he was absent in protest against the council's mistreatment of Israel.

If the council continues in this way, he warned, "it will suffer the same fate" as the UN Human Rights Commission, which was replaced by the council in June 2006.

The commission was also criticized for singling out Israel.

Speaking at the IDC's Herzliya Conference in Israel earlier this week, Dutch Foreign Minister Maxime Verhagen harshly criticized the actions of the Human Rights Council actions against Israel.

"At the United Nations, censuring Israel has become something of a habit, while Hamas's terror is referred to in coded language or not at all. The Netherlands believes the record should be set straight, both in New York and at the Human Rights Council in Geneva," Verhagen said.

At a press conference in Geneva on Wednesday, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon also rebuked the council when asked about its special session on Gaza.

"I appreciate that the council is looking in depth into this particular situation. And it is rightly doing so. I would also appreciate it if the council will be looking with the same level of attention and urgency at all other matters around the world. There are still many areas where human rights are abused and not properly protected," he said.

Hillel Neuer, the executive director of UN Watch, said the only other country to be condemned by the council was Myanmar, and that happened only once.

The latest vote against Israel by the council "is business as usual," Neuer told the Post.

AP contributed to this report.