Report: Israeli exec says Avis refused to rent a car over his nationality

(JTA) – An Israeli executive has accused Avis of declining to accept his Israeli documents when he tried to rent a car.

Dov Bergwerk, a senior vice-president at the pharmaceuticals giant Teva, told the New York Observer that the reservations agent at a Manhattan branch of the car rental firm said it was Avis policy not to recognize Israeli documents. The Avis location’s manager sided with her employee, the Observer reported, saying that she would not recognize Bergwerk’s documents or reservation.

Bergwerk told the newspaper that he has rented from Avis on numerous occasions, including two days earlier at the same location, and has an Avis Wizard loyalty card.

He called the Avis customer service main number, which confirmed that his documents were acceptable. But the manager said she would not rent Bergwerk the car because he argued with her, according to the newspaper.

Bergwerk told the Observer that he believes he was refused due to his Israeli nationality.

“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 told the Observer. “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 issued a statement on Sunday, which it posted on its Facebook page: “On Friday, a customer seeking to rent a car from Avis Car Rental was not allowed to do so because he failed to provide the required documentation. Visitors to the U.S. from other countries must provide both a valid driver’s license from their country of residence as well as a valid International Drivers License or passport in order to rent from Avis. 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 accusations.”

One comment on Facebook read: “Unless you fix this, Avis, you just lost my business,” echoing dozens that threatened to pull their business from Avis. Another said, “The Customer Is Always Right, Unless They’re Israeli.”

As of Monday afternoon, 19 hours after it was established, a Change.org petition calling for the firing of the employees that refused to accept Bergwerk’s Israeli documents had garnered more than 1,200 signatures toward a goal of 1,500.

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