'I want the backlash' Why Nas Daily isn't sorry for taking a stand on the Israeli Palestinian conflict

Nuseir Yassin, the founder of NasDaily, on the conflict, his career and how he found himself in the UAE


“We need leaders that are prepared to die for peace, even if the people say they don’t want it” The words feel strange to hear coming from Nuseir Yassin, a YouTuber more usually found telling his 60 million-strong audience about his latest folly (a recent video documented his purchase of a St Kitts passport to allow him to travel to more countries) in front of a green screen than pontificating on the future of the Israeli Palestinian conflict.

But as anyone with a connection to Israel knows intimately, if you cultivate any sort of platform, you’re expected to comment on every last twist and turn in the conflict in a way unique to the world’s most famous war. And with a platform of over 60 million followers across platforms, Nuseir has been asked to comment a lot.

For a long time, Nuseir avoided talking about the elephant in the room. Born in 1992 in the Arab town of Arraba in northern Israel, he took a scholarship to Harvard. Teaching himself English online, he wanted to escape what he saw as regressive elements in Palestinian society and an Israeli tech scene that he feared would reject him because of his background.

He found fame six years ago, while living in New York and disillusioned with his tech job, he embarked on a mission to post a one-minute clip every day for 1000 days.

Travelling the world and posting the results to his Nas Daily channels, Nuseir built an army of millions of followers that got hooked on his light, cheery style. The videos themselves were nothing particularly groundbreaking, but viewers bought into the relentlessly upbeat tone, the framing of all the world as an adventure, the idea that you can outsource altruism to a creator while continuing to live your unchanged life.

Fast-forward six years and the positivity endures. I spoke to Nuseir from his offices in the UAE, where he employs dozens of people and has a handful of different ventures including a tech platform and a social media academy, a far cry from the one-man band in a New York apartment that started it all. He even gets shout-outs from Meta's Very Online Nick Clegg.

He’s wearing one of his signature (slightly morbid) T-shirts, a percentage bar two-fifths filled that estimates he’s 40 per cent done with his life. He’s upbeat and engaged, asking me what my background is, in a way I think might be designed to work out what angle I’ll take for this story.

Nuseir identifies, one of the very few people to do so, as an “Israeli-Palestinian”. When asked why in a recent interview, he said: “Saying I’m both Israeli and Palestinian is an amazing middle finger to anybody that doesn’t like the other country.” And this is basically his worldview. Over the course of our 45-minute conversation, I got the impression that Nuseir is not someone that wants to be defined by where he’s from.

In a video he made on the topic of the Israeli Palestinian issue last month, Nuseir said something that might resonate with anyone forced to have an opinion on the conflict. He said he wished he was born somewhere unproblematic (his example was Denmark) so that he wasn’t asked to account for the actions of people that don’t speak for him. It’s a noble sentiment, if not slightly naive - we, unfortunately, don’t get to pick the patch of ground we enter the world on.

In the rest of the video, which has got millions of views wherever he’s posted it, he preaches in that uniquely vloggy way that unity, peace, and collaboration are what’s needed to stop the violence on both sides. Again, so far, so Youtube.

In conversation however, he’s much more insightful. He bemoans the endless hate on social media, describing it as “a disgusting place” where no one is thinking about solutions, but rather an endless cycle of reactions, each more extreme than the last, perhaps a strange take for a man whose day job is content.

He’s withering about both sides:  “They've had 74 years to do something meaningful, they’ve both failed miserably. It time to give them both the middle finger. We're done listening to you. We're done listening to you had your shot and you f***ed it all up.”

His solution to the whole mess is remarkably simple, if one that largely goes unspoken. “I don’t care if the history of the last 74 years is overcome before peace, it's people's responsibility to overcome it.

“Peace should be forced on people. It should not be voted on. The people in this conflict will never vote on peace. If you run a referendum in Palestine tomorrow,  and the vote was Should we make peace with Israelis? You'll get 10 per cent Yes, 90 per cent No.

“I look at the peace that happened in the last 25 years, with Jordan, Egypt, and the UAE. None of these were voted on. They were all like, ‘Hey, we're making peace. Let's go’ So I do believe in that, you know, feelings can be overcome once you force peace on people.

“Correct me if I'm wrong, because you’ll know the history better than me, but I think no leader in the Middle East has been killed, because they waged war, but two, Sadat and Rabin were killed because they wanted to wage peace.

“We need leaders who are willing to die for peace.”

A bold stance, and something I’d never heard from an Arab-Israeli before. And maybe there’s a reason for that. Since Nuseir started sharing his opinions on the conflict with his massive captive audience, he’s been pilloried by other Muslims - seemingly for breaking ranks with the mainstream Palestinian orthodoxy.

You only have to glance at the Twitter mentions for Nas Daily to see the depth of hostility towards him. Tweets calling him a traitor, calling on all Arabs to boycott his work, branding him a collaborator with Israel are too numerous to count.

For someone whose videos painstakingly focus on the power of positivity and vibes overcoming all, the contrast is jarring. I ask him if it bothers him, aware that anyone who’s ever made any content for the online hordes can’t help looking at the comments.

“I read around 5000 comments in the last week.” He says. “I read everything. I even read the comments on Twitter. And you know, that's a f***ing cesspool.

“I liked that in a way, the video was relevant enough to hate. The video was scary enough to the extremists to create video reactions, scary enough to tweet about it scary enough to comment about it and talk about it.

“That is awesome. I want that. I want that influence on these people through Nas Daily, so I'm really happy with that with the backlash.”

“If somebody on his Twitter profile has free Palestine, f**k Israel, Zionism is terrible, and they made a reaction to us saying I hate Nas Daily, then actually, that's good, it tells me that we may be actually reaching the right people, even if it's angering them, at least, we're talking.”

For someone who says they wished they were born somewhere else, it makes sense that Nuseir settled in the UAE. He says that the country feels apolitical, in a good way. That the people there are working to build something, ‘ a new Europe’ with an energy and a futuristic vision that isn’t stuck dwelling on an often fractious past. To some, the emirates symbolise the way that money sands off the rough edges of political differences, that when everyone lives in the same glass towers in the sky, it doesn’t matter where they came from. And that’s certainly true for the growing population of Israelis that live and holiday on that side of the gulf.

He says he wants to be in the “next Europe”, a home for growth and technological advancement only seen in Asia. But he also says the government has welcomed him: “The government really gave us the red carpet treatment, and there's economic opportunities. It's a business-friendly environment and everybody has energy. And that's what I love about it. Everyone is building something here."

In that respect, Nuseir is just another economic migrant, choosing palatable apolitics over a divided homeland. But it would be unfair to say he doesn’t care. He speaks fondly of Israel and embraces its right to not just exist, but flourish. He’s a proud Israeli, with Israeli investors and Israeli business partners.

But there's a reason he left. Nuseir says that unless you speak native-level Hebrew or English, you'll never quite fit in in the Israeli tech scene. "It took me a Harvard degree and a million followers to get attention there, and it was only because I spoke English. For Israelis the ultimate goal is America, but for Arabs, our America is Dubai."

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