Nuseir Yassin, a Palestinian citizen of Israel, has come under fire in recent years for his popular Facebook page Nas Daily.
Critics accuse him of whitewashing Israel’s crimes by falsely equating a colonial occupier with its victims and playing native informant while “reifying Zionism’s most toxic fantasies,” as Palestinian American commentator Steven Salaita has put it.
Not least, Yassin opposes BDS – the global boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign – led by Palestinians to help their struggle for liberation.
And this month, BDS groups in Arab countries launched one of their largest recent social media campaigns, amplifying that call.
Who is Nas?
So who is Yassin and why does he generate so much criticism from supporters of Palestinian rights?
Yassin was born and raised in Arraba, a Palestinian village in the north of Israel.
He graduated from Harvard University in 2014 with degrees in economics and computer science and started working at Venmo, the payment app owned by PayPal.
Almost two years later, according to Around the World in 60 Seconds, his co-authored memoir published by HarperCollins, Yassin quit his job, started traveling and kept a video blog on Facebook.
That’s when he started Nas Daily, a project to make a one-minute video every day for 1,000 days.
“Nas” is his own nickname and also the Arabic word for “people.”
He has amassed more than 20 million followers on social media, mostly on Facebook, drawn by his videos showcasing the people he meets, the food he eats and the countries he visits.
Such a following gives him enormous influence, whatever his message.
Many of Yassin’s videos end with a clip of him surrounded by fans shouting his tagline, “That’s one minute, see you tomorrow.”
He has now branched into other ventures, including Nas Academy, Nas Studios, and a podcast called Nas Talks. Yassin estimates his net worth at $5 million.
Yassin’s Israeli American partner Alyne Tamir travels around the world with him and makes frequent appearances in his videos.
Tamir also produces her own social media content, including a website that features a “quick history” of Israel.
Indeed it is so quick that it completely omits the Nakba, the 1948 ethnic cleansing of Palestinians by Zionist militias.
It is Yassin’s latest venture, The Next Nas Daily, that has been the focus of recent boycott calls.
Yassin describes it as a campaign to train 80 “Arab media creators” to make viral videos.
“My team and I will train you, we will design a channel for you, we will support you,” Yassin explains in a video.
“And best of all, we will give you a salary too,” he adds. “For six months we will give you enough to survive.”
Working 12-hour days, Yassin’s trainees are required to upload three videos a week about “anything that you like and put it on the internet in Arabic.”
“How do I make my money back?” Yassin asks. “It’s easy. If one of you becomes the next Nas Daily, we both win.” This suggests that those taking part will be required to sign over intellectual property rights to Yassin.
The venture is supported by the New Media Academy, a school founded by the ruler of Dubai and prime minister of the United Arab Emirates, Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum.
Palestine’s BDS National Committee, which spearheads the global boycott campaign, has spoken out against Yassin’s new project.
The committee said “the backing of the authoritarian Emirati regime” for Yassin’s project “constitutes explicit complicity” in Israel’s efforts to “polish the crimes of its settler-colonial regime and apartheid state.”
Undoubtedly, The Next Nas Daily also aims to create a buzz that will generate business for Nas Academy: Those not picked to take part in The Next Nas Daily can still avail themselves of online courses ranging in price from $99 to $499.
Notably, the head trainer at the Nas Academy is Yonatan Belik, a videographer who served in the Israeli army. Belik was a commander in the Sar-El program, which recruits foreign volunteers to work on Israeli military bases.
He also boasted of motivating high school seniors to join the Israeli military.
Belik is a former trainer at Seeds of Peace, a normalization initiative that holds summer camps for young Palestinians and Israelis in order to promote “coexistence” before sending them back to live out their separate and unequal realities.
The boycott call prompted participants to start withdrawing from The Next Nas Daily.
Israa Elshareef, a Palestinian journalist from Gaza living in Istanbul, pulled out in September.
“It was really a unique opportunity, but our cause is more important than any opportunity,” Elshareef wrote on Instagram.
She told The Electronic Intifada that she withdrew because she saw The Next Nas Daily as a program aimed at normalization with Israel and because it is backed by the New Media Academy.
Yemeni YouTuber Abdulrahman Algamily revealed that Yassin’s company approached him to take part in The Next Nas Daily.
Algamily said that a Zoom meeting with Yassin’s company raised red flags.
His political concerns, as well as how the program was structured to effectively control the content creators, compelled Algamily to decline to participate.
Algamily criticized Yassin for his coverage of Palestine, accusing him of whitewashing Israel’s crimes.
“Imagine if 80 influential Arab content creators adopt these messages. Messages of normalization, messages of support for the occupation,” Algamily said.
Jordanian YouTuber Marwan Al Bayari withdrew because he was concerned that The Next Nas Daily would restrict him from criticizing Israel.
And Palestinian YouTuber Fadi Younes quit as a trainer for The Next Nas Daily after discussions with the BDS National Committee.
In a video explaining his decision, Younes includes a clip from a training session in which he told Nas Academy participants, “I am personally against normalization” and that he “only recognizes Palestine.”
Yassin responded to the boycott call in September with a video posted exclusively on his Arabic Facebook page titled “Beware of the Arab loser.”
Yassin claims that jealousy of his success is behind the call to boycott him.
Targeting an Arab audience, the video aims to portray Yassin as something he is not: a strong and consistent critic of Israel.
Yet Yassin barely relates these crimes to the systemic racism of the United States and Israel. Rather, he puts them down largely to a lack of training that leads police forces to employ too many “bad apples.”
In the case of Hallaq, Yassin doesn’t even mention that the killing took place in occupied East Jerusalem, rather, describing it in the broader context of being “in Israel.”
Because Hallaq’s killing occurred in occupied territory, the human rights group Al-Haq has described it as a war crime.
“I respect the police, I really do,” Yassin insists.
He urges police to hire more “empathetic” officers, adding that “they exist” as copaganda images – pro-police propaganda that undermines the movement for Black lives and deflects calls to defund the police – flash across the screen.
Yassin includes the brief clip about Hallaq from the police brutality video within his “Beware of the Arab loser” video.
He offers it as an example of how he “hates the Israeli government, and I’ve made videos about this.” In fact, the police brutality video includes only the mildest criticisms of Israel, and says nothing about Yassin’s alleged hatred for its government.
Despite his whitewash of systemic police violence generally and Hallaq’s killing in particular, Yassin uses Hallaq’s image to shield himself from criticism about his promotion of pro-Israel propaganda.
Yassin then embarks on a racist rant singling out “Arab civilization” as particularly prone to failure and violence – a theme he returns to regularly.
“This is the problem of Arab civilization,” he says in the video.
“If you look at Arab countries, all Arab countries have problems. There are wars. There is ISIS. There is killing. There is poverty. Why? I have never in my life seen such a civilization.”
Yassin’s solution is individual striving – a version of the illusory American dream – in which anyone can succeed like him if they ignore the “Arab loser” and just focus on their personal goals.
Defiant as he is, Yassin is evidently feeling the pressure.
In October, he attacked Al Jazeera for reporting on the call to boycott his projects.
“This is fake news targeted at us by a government,” he claimed, merely on the basis that Al Jazeera is funded by Qatar.
The cause of his ire was this video made by the network’s AJ+ unit:
Notably, Yassin’s LinkedIn profile shows he has previously done freelance work for AJ+.
The video which ruffled Yassin’s feathers features Mahmoud Nawajaa, the general coordinator of the BDS movement, discussing why many Palestinians are so critical of Yassin’s work.
Nawajaa does not accuse Yassin of receiving direct support from Israel.
But he does say that Yassin’s videos consistently obscure Israel’s crimes against Palestinians and burnish its image in line with its “Brand Israel” campaign.
In his video response, Yassin spins this critique as a “comical” accusation that Nas Academy “is training people to love Israel.”
Yet Yassin also discloses that he too is paid by governments, though he asserts that it is only to “promote tourism and love, not politics and hate.”
Yassin doesn’t say which governments pay him, though he denies working with the Israeli government.
Notably, Yassin recounts in a Nas Talks episode from August sitting and chatting with an Israeli ambassador, though he does not say which ambassador or describe the context and purpose of the meeting.
If Yassin is to be believed, his services to Israeli propaganda would appear to be not a business transaction but a genuine labor of love.
Whitewashing Israel’s crimes
Any examination of Yassin’s output shows that he habitually whitewashes Israel’s crimes and attempts to establish a false parity between oppressor and oppressed that conceals Israeli dominance and responsibility for the injustices he occasionally decries in his videos.
“It is not easy to live next to a wall that makes movement harder. It’s not easy to go through awful checkpoints. It’s not easy to live in refugee camps your whole life like this,” Yassin says in a recent video titled “Palestine in 5 Minutes.”
Yet there’s no mention of who built the walls, forced Palestinians into refugee camps and denied their right to return home or who set up the “awful” checkpoints. Israel and its military occupation are not mentioned even once.
Instead, Yassin talks about “Palestine” – by which he evidently only means bits of the West Bank – as a “real” country, whose seemingly limitless potential lies in the hands of those who show individual grit and talent.
While Yassin may think of this as promoting only “love and tourism,” it fits conveniently with the framework of the Trump administration’s “Peace for Prosperity” plan.
That plan – often known as the Deal of the Century – treats Palestinians not as subjects of Israeli colonial occupation who are struggling for liberation, but as people who merely need more investment and “educational access” to “pursue their dreams.”
In another video titled “Jews vs. Arabs,” Yassin is approached by an Orthodox Jewish man in Jerusalem.
The pair converse about Yassin’s large online following. When the man learns that Yassin is Palestinian, he is in disbelief.
“I work with many Arabs. They’re not intelligent. They’re barbaric,” the man tells Yassin.
The Jewish man’s teenage relative shows up and spouts more racist comments.
“All Arabs are terrorists,” she says.
Reflecting on this incident in his book, Yassin claims that “there’s a flip side to all of this.”
He writes that he has had “many private conversations with Arabs who, just like this guy, claim that ‘all Jews are bad people.’”
“Worse confrontations happen every day,” he writes. “In fact, some are fatal.”
Yassin promotes the myth that the violence stems from religious or cultural misunderstandings and individual racist attitudes, rather than Israel’s occupation and colonization of Palestinian land.
This is a common tactic used by pro-Israel propagandists.
What Yassin avoids is any discussion of power relations and the racism inherent to Israel’s state ideology, Zionism.
Zionism is the belief that Jews from anywhere in the world have a right to settle in historic Palestine and work to ensure a Jewish demographic majority at the expense of indigenous Palestinians.
Zionists only established Israel “as a Jewish state” by perpetrating the Nakba – the ethnic cleansing of some 800,000 Palestinians and the occupation of their cities, towns and villages.
Meanwhile, Israel forbids Palestinian refugees from returning to their lands and homes solely because they are not Jewish.
The racism expressed by the man and his relative in Jerusalem are not just instances of individual ignorance mirrored by what nameless Arabs allegedly tell Yassin privately.
They are the product of systemic state racism and violence, which cannot be fixed by Yassin’s upbeat videos that erase the root problems.
A city cut in half
Yassin seems most determined to whitewash this reality in Jerusalem.
Recalling the conversation with the Orthodox man and his relative, Yassin writes that it was particularly hurtful to experience such racism in “a city where Jews and Muslims share backyards, dine in the same falafel shops and pray to their gods in houses of worship that stand side by side.”
In another video, Yassin parrots Israel’s propaganda that Jerusalem is a vibrant, multicultural city that “belongs to everybody.”
According to Yassin’s portrayal, Jews, Muslims and Christians may live in separate quarters but all share equally in the city’s bustling and colorful life.
Once again, Yassin ignores reality. The western part of Jerusalem was conquered and ethnically cleansed of its Palestinian residents by Zionist militias as Israel was established in 1948. Like other Palestinian refugees, they have not been allowed to return.
Israel occupied the eastern part of Jerusalem in 1967. It immediately bulldozed the 700-year-old Moroccan Quarter, destroying among countless treasures a 12th-century mosque.
Since then, Israel has moved relentlessly to colonize and Judaize East Jerusalem by building Jewish-only settlements; walling, isolating and destroying Palestinian neighborhoods; and forcing Palestinians out of the city.
While Yassin paints a false picture of coexistence under Israel’s racist regime, he is opposed to genuine moves towards equality that would challenge Israeli dominance.
To be fair, the video contains perhaps his harshest critique of Israel: Yassin urges Israel to dismantle its settlements in the occupied West Bank, calling them “simply illegal” – a position roughly as bold as that of the European Union.
Yassin says nothing about the Israeli military’s brutality against Palestinians. Yet he asserts that Palestinians will have to build a “unified government that does not call for violence at every chance” – a reprise of his racist view that Arabs are somehow naturally prone to violence and engage in it for its own sake.
In what may be his greatest concession to Zionism, Yassin says that “Both countries [Israel and Palestine] should pay back some of the Arabs and the Jews who were forced out of their homes because of this conflict.”
He thus appears to be boosting Israel’s fabrication-laced false equation between the Palestinians expelled by Zionists during the Nakba, and Jews who left Arab countries in the years that followed, many of whom settled in Israel.
Israel uses this false equation to attempt to justify denying millions of Palestinian refugees their right to return home and restitution for the property Israel has stolen from them.
No matter what injustices were experienced by Jews from Arab countries, it is incumbent on Israel to respect the rights of Palestinian refugees.
This is the same project that Yassin celebrates in his “Palestine in 5 Minutes” video as “all built by Palestinians for Palestinians.”
In fact, Rawabi was built partly on land confiscated from surrounding Palestinian villages by the Palestinian Authority. That land was handed to the private real estate firm run by Palestinian American tycoon Bashar Masri, as explained in The Battle for Justice in Palestine, a 2014 book by one of the present writers.
Masri’s company previously bragged that it had spent up to $100 million a year on Israeli expertise and materials during construction, making Rawabi part of “an economy for peace.”
Similar to Yassin, the BDS National Committee has condemned Masri for promoting normalization with Israel and pursuing “personal interests and profit making at the expense of Palestinian rights.”
Yassin proclaimed that the apartment in Rawabi and another in Israel would be free for anyone who wanted to visit “Israel and Palestine” to stay in and see for themselves, because the situation is “complicated” – a regular refrain of Israel apologists who seek to obscure the grossly one-sided reality of Israeli oppression.
In 2017, Yassin slammed Kuwait Airlines over its refusal to carry Israeli passport holders like him who are barred from entering Kuwait even for stopovers in its airport.
When Yassin – who is Muslim – was barred from a Kuwait Airways flight because of his Israeli passport, he declared it “daylight discrimination.”
“Dear Kuwait, if you want to boycott Israel, be my guest,” Yassin rails in a video.
“But also give me your USB flash drives, your phones, your safe driving cars,” he adds – a regurgitation of well-worn Israeli government talking points claiming that it is hypocritical for boycotters to use all these technological marvels allegedly invented in Israel.
Yassin states that such boycotts should be “illegal” and condemns them as “pure politics.”
“If you want to boycott Israel because of Palestine, I don’t think you actually care,” Yassin claims. “Because you’re also boycotting two million Muslim Palestinian Israelis like me.”
That is a gross misrepresentation of the boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign; one of its pillars is fighting for the rights of Palestinian citizens of Israel who live under dozens of discriminatory and outright racist laws.
According to Yassin, boycotts of Israel only benefit “the outdated, undemocratic kings of the Arabs and the far-right Israeli leaders.”
But in addition to echoing the propaganda of Israel’s far-right government – notwithstanding his claim that he “hates” it – Yassin is also happy to support undemocratic Arab monarchs as long as they are allied with Israel and presumably as long as they are paying him.
Yassin was able to visit the UAE earlier this year, even before the Gulf state announced it was normalizing ties with Israel.
That the UAE has one of the most undemocratic and repressive regimes in the world did not stop Yassin from making several promotional videos praising government initiatives.
Now, Yassin and his partner Tamir have moved to Dubai where they are opening offices.
They also have offices in Singapore and Yassin says he would “love to expand” to other cities, including Tel Aviv.
Bringing any of that up would presumably not advance Yassin’s message of “love.”
Yassin did not reply to a request for comment.
Tamara Nassar is associate editor and Ali Abunimah is executive director of The Electronic Intifada.