Businessman refused car rental in NYC for being Israeli

An Israeli businessman’s complaint against the Avis car rental agency for refusing to provide him with a rental vehicle because of his Israeli identity sparked uproar on Sunday after the story made its way to the pages of the New York-based Observer.

Dov Bergwerk, a senior executive at Israeli pharmaceutical giant Teva, said that on Friday night he and his wife arrived at the Avis branch on West 76th Street and Broadway in New York City and were planning to join friends for dinner in Westchester.

Bergwerk told the Observer he has rented from Avis dozens of times before — but when he handed the agent his driver’s license, reservation number and Wizard loyalty card, the unforeseen trouble started.

According to the Observer, a reservation agent named Angelline said it was company policy not to recognize Israeli documents. Stunned, Bergwerk explained that he had rented from Avis on numerous occasions, including from that very office only two days earlier.

The report continued: “Bergwerk asked Angelline to access the profile attached to his Wizard card, which shows that he is an executive at a giant multinational company who has no regulatory issues and has rented from Avis, including at that very branch, many times without incident. She refused. They argued.”

The branch manager, a woman by the name of Shamoura, sided with her reservation agent and refused to honor the reservation or recognize Bergwerk’s documents. Both the reservation agent and the branch manager refused to provide their last names, according to the Observer.

Bergwerk called the Avis main number, where a representative confirmed that the Israeli license was an acceptable form of ID and also mentioned that he could show his passport to ameliorate any ID concerns the on-site employees had.

Bergwerk told the Observer that “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. 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.

“I felt that something very ugly was going on. Discriminated against. When you deny someone a service and they present the ability to pay for that service and they dismiss you like your money isn’t good here, it’s very demeaning.”

For its part, Avis doubled down on its employees’ conduct and issued a statement saying: “On Friday, 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 U.S. from other countries must provide both a valid driver’s license from their country of residence as well as either a valid International Driver’s 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 allegations.”