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Israeli says he was denied service by US car rental company

Customer, a Teva executive, claims Avis agent in NY told him it was ‘company policy not to recognize Israeli documents’

Raoul Wootliff is the Times of Israel's former political correspondent and producer of the Daily Briefing podcast.

An illustrative photo of an AVIS car rental station (Photo by Atomic Taco/Flikr CC BY-SA)
An illustrative photo of an AVIS car rental station (Photo by Atomic Taco/Flikr CC BY-SA)

A senior executive of an Israeli multinational has claimed the Avis car rental company refused to issue him a vehicle, citing “company policy” not to accept Israeli drivers licenses. The rental company has denied any anti-Israel stance, saying the Israeli customer did not have the appropriate documentation and promising to investigate the allegations.

Dov Bergwerk told the New York Observer that he tried to pick up a car from a New York branch of the rental outfit on Saturday night, but was told that the company would not accept his Israeli documentation. He said a rental agent refused to even check his reservation despite telling her he had rented an Avis car using his Israeli license just two days earlier.

Bergwerk is a senior vice president for the Israeli pharmaceutical giant Teva and says he rents cars with Avis on a regular basis, even holding the company’s Wizard membership card.

Bergwerk says that a manager was called in after he had argued with the agent, but he backed up his employee and also refused to honor the reservation. A call to the company’s customer service proved fruitless when the manager said Berwerk was being refused service because he has argued about the way he was treated in front of other customers, and not because of his Israeli documents.

Bergwerk told the Observer that he felt the employees were discriminating against him because he was Israeli.

“While no direct reference was made to being anti-Israel, that was my impression almost from the initial moment I presented my license and credit card as I have done over 15 years of business and leisure travel without ever being challenged,” he said. “The agent stated that the Israeli license did not have the required info in English. I tried to demonstrate that the license had all the required info but she and the manager had no interest. Similarly, the fact that I have had many rentals at Avis and at this location was dismissed as having been ‘done by new employees.’”

Avis responded to the claims in an email to the Observer, rejecting the allegation its employees acted out of malice towards Israel.

“A customer seeking to rent a car from Avis Car Rental in Manhattan was not allowed to do so because he failed to provide the required documentation. Visitors to the US from other countries must provide both a valid drivers license from their country of residence as well as either a valid International Drivers License or passport in order to rent from Avis,” the letter read.

“We are aggressively investigating the customer’s allegations regarding the handling of this matter, as we do not tolerate any form of discrimination. So far, our ongoing investigation suggests that this customer is unfairly maligning us with unfounded allegations.”

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