In the past few weeks, my Facebook feed has been inundated with short videos by a cheerful young man calling himself Nas Daily. Traveling to exotic locales and highlighting absurd or uncommon phenomena in one-minute increments, Nas Daily has rapidly accumulated an audience of millions. His catchphrase, “That’s one minute, see you tomorrow!,” is calibrated for a busy world increasingly addicted to visual media.
Nas (“people” in Arabic) is short for Nuseir Yassin, a Muslim Palestinian citizen of Israel. A Harvard graduate, the 25-year-old is a native of Arraba, an Arab village in the Galilee. He quit the high-tech economy in New York City when a feeling of wanderlust overcame him and decided to travel the world and record his encounters. Yassin has been favorably profiled in a variety of Israeli media.
It’s easy to see why Yassin has been successful. He is jaunty and vivacious. His videos are colorful and fast-paced, offering hopeful messages that resonate in a seemingly broken world. He seeks the exotic and unusual, which plays well with First World audiences.
Some of his videos have a political edge, but he stops short of structural critique. He rarely explores disparities of power and works hard to accommodate a range of sensitivities. In Nas’s world, equality can be salvaged through dialogue and understanding.
While plenty of his dispatches are enjoyable, a few have been embarrassingly bad. His forays onto the African continent reproduce the bubbly Orientalism found in high-end travel magazines. A recent video about Swaziland—“Africa’s secret country!”—featured half-naked dancers (his phrasing) and attentive natives. It looked like a research trip for a 1940s Disney feature.
If you’re tempted to rejoin by noting that Yassin can only do so much in sixty seconds, I will agree. I will also point out that it’s a bad idea to discuss a continent subject to centuries of exploitation in one-minute increments.
Palestine, however, is Yassin’s weakest geography. In his quest to sound objective, he often presents as a native informant. He highlights the difficult circumstances facing Palestinians, but conspicuously avoids implicating the Israeli state in racism or ethnic cleansing. He never condemns Zionism. Settler colonization is absent from his vocabulary. In his telling of Palestine, the Nakba never happened.
The feel-good shtick that works in alien environs doesn’t translate to his ancestral land.
Lest I be accused of reducing Palestine to crude politics, I am not responding to a set of cultural tidbits. Yassin addresses the so-called Israel-Palestine conflict in numerous videos. I am aware that, as a second-class citizen of Israel, strong criticism of the state might cause him hardship.
This mitigating factor still doesn’t absolve Yassin of his half-baked politics. In an otherwise decent video about Palestinians inside Israel, he implies that “the laws [in Israel] don’t explicitly discriminate.” Yet numerous writers and civic organizations have documented Israel’s juridical discrimination against non-Jewish minorities. Yassin then places equal responsibility for the poor condition of Palestinian-Israelis on “the government and my people themselves!!” before reassuring viewers that “this isn’t a blame video.”
In another video, he attempts to create unity through a lighthearted competition between Israeli and Palestinian hummus. The fact that there’s no such thing as “Israeli” hummus, thus rendering the exercise pointless, isn’t enough to disrupt Yassin’s quest to liberate Palestinians by reifying Zionism’s most toxic fantasies. Even the earnest young Zionists one encounters at campus diversity events understand that peace will require more than a shared love of pureed legumes.
Introducing the segment, Yassin declares, “Even this video, I’m sure, will piss off people on both sides. I have 0 interest in engaging in those discussions, but certainly feel free to share with the world your one-sided opinions!”
In other videos, he agitates against binationalism, suggests transforming parts of Jordan into Palestine, eulogizes Israel’s technological prowess, declares that BDS should be illegal, and treats the colonization of Jerusalem as a bizarre misunderstanding.
One episode begins with the disclaimer, “This video will certainly get me in trouble, but it’s about time I made it,” classic Nas-speak for “I’m getting ready to say something stupid.” The subsequent sixty seconds provide a synopsis of Israel’s founding without using the terms “refugee,” “massacre,” “displacement,” “theft,” “occupation,” or “imperialism” before imploring fellow Palestinians to “move on!,” an option no doubt appealing to the two million people under siege 112 miles south of Yassin in Gaza.
Before another of his educational videos, he invokes an age-old Zionist mantra, complaining, “I was fed up with the amount of hate coming out from both sides” and then bemoans the “pushback” he has received from “both sides.”
This is a recurrent theme for Yassin. Other people grouse and bellyache. In contrast, he is a forward thinker prepared to confront all that his compatriots prefer to avoid. Constantly appealing to his own courage and originality, he doesn’t seem to understand, or care, that he merely repeats the same bromides proffered by Western diplomats, politicians, intellectuals, pundits, and broadcasters for almost five decades.
He’s always on about positivity, something he considers a uniquely enlightened perspective. His entire discourse is little more than self-help for the apolitical. Some might read it as a field manual for collaboration.
Yassin regularly prefaces his videos with qualifications meant to illustrate that he is exceptionally reasonable. People are always going to be mad about what he’s getting ready to say, but he must say it, anyway. Or, as he puts it, “As is with all politics, unfortunately, people get angry. Especially with such sensitive topics. But this is exactly why Nas Daily started in the first place: for me to express my opinion around the world. So why stop now?” Although Yassin only speaks in sixty-second intervals, he could save everybody time by directing their attention to J Street’s mission statement.
The easiest way for a Palestinian to earn a mass audience is by appeasing liberal Zionist anxieties. Yassin has proved an adept study; Nas Daily excels at the unoriginal. For his own people, however, he manages to offer nothing but routine episodes of passive aggression.