INTERVIEW: Have we got Nas for you!

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INTERVIEW: Have we got Nas for you!

Arab-Israeli internet star Nuseir Yassin, who is known by his 60 million social media fans on Nas Daily, talks to Nicole Lampert about his Twitter bet on peace by 2030

Nas Daily
Nas Daily

Nuseir Yassin, the Palestinian Israeli who is known by his 60 million social media fans on Nas Daily, is used to sharing all aspects of his life publicly.  

So when he split up with fellow Israeli Alyne Tamir – his Jewish and Mormon girlfriend of six years – earlier this year he didn’t hesitate to make a film about it with her detailing both their sadness and what went wrong (basically he is too obsessed with his work).

It’s heartbreaking – both of them are in tears. And it is also weirdly slick. It is his most popular video this year with over 50 million views and that is perhaps no surprise. While the celebrities of yesteryear do ever more to hide their private lives, there is a generation of content producers like Nuseir and Alyne (whose own site is Dear Alyne) whose success relies on them being totally open with their community.

“I have come to learn that every time I share something personal about my life, people really want to watch,’ says 31-year-old Nas. ‘But it is net positive; I have not seen any downsides of sharing my private life yet. I share everything – from my relationships to my financial status (he revealed he was worth $5million in February) to how much I make per post, to what I spend. I share everything.

Dubai office

“I don’t get people’s fear of sharing secrets. It’s not a big deal. I think the more transparent we are, the less exploitation we get. And I know so many people were inspired by that video – whether they started or ended a relationship because of it. I think more people should share more private stuff. But having said that, making that video was probably the hardest one I have made emotionally. It is the one I shed the most tears.”

It is just seven years since Nuseir, who was born in Arraba to an Arab Muslim family, started posting his one-minute videos on social media. A Harvard University graduate – he received a scholarship after detailing his struggle to achieve his dreams as an Arab in Israel – he was working as a software developer when he decided to explore the world and to document it with a video every day for 1000 days.

At first no one took much notice; but then a post about travelling cheaply in Thailand went viral. When his 1000 days were up, he’d visited 64 countries and amassed millions of followers and – just as importantly – found a way to make vlogging (video blogging) not just financially viable but also a success. Today he doesn’t just post his own videos but has a large company which teaches people around the world how to emulate his success.


Nas Daily

At the heart of it is a bright man with a mission. When we chat over Zoom (with him first requesting that I answer his questions about me before he answers mine about him) he is sporting his famous t-shirt design – showing that he’s lived approximately 40 per cent of his life. It epitomises this man who is fascinated by his fellow humans and wants to make a difference in the 60 per cent of his life he has left; he wants to bring people together.

And his heritage – as what he calls a Palestinian Israeli who has seen the pain of the conflict from both sides – means that he is only all too aware of how important peace is.

His most controversial videos have been about his homeland. As an Arab he’s seen discrimination and death and as an Israeli he’s seen the same. One video shows him describing how a Palestinian friend lost a cousin and an Israeli friend lost a brother in the conflict. His messages are about peace and his hopes for a two-state solution – but has found himself the target for saying so with media company Al Jazeera calling him an Israeli spy and propagandist.

Alyne Tamir and Nas in happier times

“The most controversial thing about me is where I am from,’ he says. ‘If you say the word Israel in the UK, nothing bad will happen but I have maybe 5 million people in Egypt following me and simply for saying the word Israel I automatically become a traitor. And that applies to 30 other countries around the world. I’ve got this global fan base which has diverse opinions about Israel – but the majority of them hate it. But it is also where I am from.

“That was difficult to come to terms with – I’d say it took me three years to feel comfortable saying ‘I am from Israel whether you f*cking like it or not, this is where I am from’. People wanted me to say I’m from Palestine but I never lived a day in modern Palestine; it felt like people wanted to change my identity. So my Israel and Palestine videos are the most controversial but they are also the most important to me because they’re my way of fighting back against both sides.”

Because he is Israeli – despite being an Arab and a Muslim –he has also been the target of BDS which purports to be a pro-Palestinian organisation. “They’ve made three or four statements about me in the last few years but I genuinely love it because every time they mention me, I get more attention,” he grins. “They were furious when we ran a conference in Israel followed by one in Dubai.

Nas Daily

“BDS is a 2010 phenomenon – they have zero power. If you look at their social media you can see they get almost no engagement. They are irrelevant. But the sad thing is they hurt Palestinians most of all. The number of Palestinians who have been denied opportunities, jobs, money, progress because of this fear of BDS is insane.”

His vision is something very different. It is about kindness not attacks – it is about reaching a hand across a bridge. “I get all sorts of amazing messages – maybe twenty or so saying ‘you made me not kill myself’ and that is insane,” he says. ‘I get emails from parents saying I inspired their kids or from adults who said I inspired them to travel or look at the Israel and Palestine conflict in a different way.

“A lot of the current media focuses on what is bad in the world – they are all there for a bomb explosion in Africa but never go back when things are going well. So I try and balance that. It’s harder getting people to care about something that is not scary or imminent. I don’t want to be all kumbaya with all this talk about peace – but I want to share things that excite me.”

He is positive about the future for his homeland – in June he even offered a $100,000 bet on Twitter that there would be peace between Israel and Palestine by 2030.

“Economics will force us to have peace,” he says. “With Saudi Arabia investing $100 billion in a city on the Red Sea, that’s 50kms away from Israel, it is going to want peace. There are billions of dollars on the line and that is how peace will come through.”

He has been living in the UAE for the last couple of years and seen first-hand the very real difference the Abraham Accords have made. “I was in the UAE before the peace deal in secret and now I am here and have created 100 jobs in this country,” he says. “Nothing is more beautiful than peace. I met the Israeli ambassador here the other week and it is like everybody is in love with everybody. It’s hard to believe.

“The GCC [the Gulf country trade bloc] is different from north Africa and the Levant – the GCC people are primarily interested in stability and that that is why I live here. I think this is where the future is going to be. The future was in London, and in America, but now I think it is going to be a combination of GCC, China, Singapore and India.’

He’s built an incredibly successful startup but he insists that his motivation is altruism. And I believe him – because his biggest talent has always been being authentically himself; bouncy, excitable, bright, interested.

“I think we’re on this planet to leave it a little better than the way we found it,” he says. “If I can bridge a gap between Jews and Arabs or Israel and the rest of the Middle East by just one percent than I am good. Media can be incredibly powerful – it can lift populations and crush them – and I want to be part of a positive moment. It is a big responsibility but I wouldn’t trade it for a billion dollars.”

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