When after Kristallnacht the British proposed that thousands of children be admitted into Britain, Ben-Gurion opposed the plan!┬ Ben-Gurion explained his reasoning to a conference of Labor Zionists on December 7,1938: "If I knew that it was possible to save all the children of Germany by transporting them to England, but only half of them by transporting them to Palestine, I would choose the second.┬ For we must weigh not only the lives of these children, but also the history of the people of Israel"(Ibid, Chapter 13).
The Zionist plan hobbled rescue efforts because allowing all the Jews to emigrate to Palestine was infeasible. For one thing, the British did not want to take such a move because it would alienate the Arab countries, and risk undermining their support in the war effort. Furthermore the Zionists themselves did not "want to provide refuge for all prospective refugees' they regarded older or unskilled Jews as a burden. (They only wanted to prevent Jews from going anywhere other than Palestine.) Chaim Weizmann, the future (first) President of Israel, wanted 2 million youth. He told the Zionist Congress in 1937 that the Zionist enterprise would be harmed " if┬ Palestine were to be flooded with very old people or with undesirables"( cited in Schonfeld,1992). "The old ones will pass; they will bear their fate or they will not.┬ ┬ They were dust, economic and moral dust in a cruel world...Only the branch of the young will survive.┬ They have to accept it" (Brenner, Chapter 13).
Ben-Gurion instructed his Zionists followers to ignore or attempt to undermine any and all rescue plans that were not tied to emigration to Palestine (see Brenner, 1983; Evron, 1995; Schoenmann, 1988).┬ Thus the Zionists were able to sabotage the success of the Evian Conference convened on the eve of the war at the initiative of President Roosevelt to explore refugee options for European Jews. Weizmann,was "particularly worried that it would move Jewish organizations to collect large sums of money for aid to Jewish refugees, and these organizations could interfere with our collection efforts"(Evron, p.260).
Ben-Gurion was afraid that the conference "will open the gates of other countries to Jewish immigration..." Ben-Gurion and the other Zionist leaders decided the wisest course of action was "to belittle the Conference as much as possible and to cause it to decide nothing" (Evron, p. 260-1). (See also Evron's discussion of a number of books in Hebrew on this topic.) The Zionists succeeded in stymieing the Evian conference, largely as result of their status at that point and their reputation as spokespersons for international Jewry.
This topic is too extensive to do justice to in these few paragraphs, and students of the topic have unearthed a plethora of facts that undermine the Zionists claim of innocense; for example the efforts of several prominent Zionists (including Yitzhak Shamir, who became Prime Minister of Israel in the early 1990s) to form a pact with Germany based on cooperation in the Nazis war effort in 1941" the Nazis rejected the offer (see Brownfeld,1998: cited in Schoenman,1988,pp54-5). But the more important point here is that the Zionists believed that measures that could have and would have saved hundreds of thousands of European Jews were a threat to their own nationalist ambitions to procure support for an Israeli state. Evron points out that even after the full scale of the Holocaust became known "the Zionist movement".
The maniacal nationalism of a Ben-Gurion was not compatible with a whole-hearted effort to save European Jews ôthat would have required at least a willingness to pressure other countries to open their doors to imperiled Jews in the late 1930s when it was still possible to escape (see Evron, 1995).┬ ┬ But in 1938 Ben-Gurion warned his fellow Zionists, "If we allow a separation between the refugee problem and the Palestinian problem, we are risking the existence of Zionism" (Cited in Brenner, 1983, Chapter 13).