Will the BDS boycott call against NasDaily succeed?

Nas is not alone in his meteoric rise to fame. He also has deep-pocketed admirers funding his endeavors.

A boycott call was issued earlier this month by the Palestinian Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement, calling on people the world over to snub the famed You Tuber and Vlogger, Nuseir Yassin, aka Nas Daily.

The call was made in light of Nas’s attempts to normalize the UAE-Israel normalization deal, which was widely condemned by people from many Arab states and beyond, including Palestinians on both the official and popular levels.

The BDS call was also aimed at those who were selected to take part in training at the NasDaily Academy. It seems to be making an impact.

Israa Elshareef, a Palestinian media activist, recently announced that she has abandoned participation in the training program that many were eager to join.

“In light of the UAE-Israeli normalization deal that was reached recently, renewed calls by Palestinian BDS campaign were made to boycott all sorts of normalization with Israel including DailyNas, that’s why I decided to withdraw from the training. Also I was not aware that Nas produced contents that conform with the Israeli narrative and I think he is funded to polish Israel’s image,” Elshareef told TRT World.

Nas Academy’s program chose only 80 Arab content creators to receive stipends in exchange for producing videos for six months.

Nas has responded to the BDS call in a video titled “Beware of loser Arabs”, calling those who criticize him as “enemies of success”. He stated that “after four years, 30 million people decided to follow me and I decided to show those people those positive aspects”.

The 28-year old social media influencer was born in Arraba village in historic Palestine. He travels on an Israeli passport, defines himself as a Palestinian-Israeli. Israel prefers to see him as Arab-Israeli.

He has often said that he creates videos to make ‘the world a better place’, and has travelled much of the world in 1,000 days, creating a thousand 60 second videos and posting them on his Facebook page, NasDaily.

Many Palestinians accuse him of whitewashing Israel’s war crimes against them. Some call him an Israeli agent.

While Nas is comfortable with recognizing Palestine-Israel as a conflict, he has avoided discussing the root cause, or how it all started in 1948, when Palestinians were pushed out of their homes so that the Zionists could have their own homeland. For Nas, looking at the conflict through its historic prism is a drag as “life is too short”.

On September 17, he announced on his Facebook page that he now has, in total, 30 million followers on social media platforms.

He has 17 million followers on Facebook alone where his videos have been watched nearly 300,000 times. This is no surprise when one learns that Facebook is cooperating with him in the creation of more videos, while governments worldwide are sponsoring him to produce videos for PR purposes.

His call for coexistence and harmony between nations, although it completely ignores the aggressive nature of the Israeli state, has been amplified by the Israeli media. The Jerusalem Post often carries stories about his travels.

In October 2017, he posted a rant against Kuwait Airlines for preventing him from boarding its flight on the grounds of him carrying an Israeli passport. Since Kuwait does not recognize Israel as a nation state, its state-run companies, including airlines, are barred from doing business with Israel and its citizens.

“Dear Kuwait: If you want to boycott Israel, be my guest, refuse me service,” he said. “But also give me your USB flash drives, your phones, your safe-driving cars, your Viber, your Waze or your anti-virus – this is also Israel,” he wrote on his Facebook page.

“If you want to boycott Israel because of Palestine, I don’t think you actually care,  because you’re also boycotting two million Muslim Palestinian Israelis”.

Nas Daily Academy is backed by the UAE’s “New Media Academy”, a digital training institution launched in June by Emirati Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum. It claims to provide a broad range of career-oriented educational programs and seeks to produce graduates with innovative ideas who are well-prepared for the rapidly growing field of Digital Marketing.

Government invitations

The Dubai based academy has helped Nas produce material from inside the UAE. He portrayed the country as the safest travel destination during the coronavirus pandemic, and has praised its space industry as well as “coexistence” between its residents.

Not all Palestinians or Arabs would turn away from watching Nas’s videos, simply because he simplifies the complexities of the world and bridges the gap between culture and entertainment, a rare combination in the Arab world.

Is Nas alone in his meteoric rise to fame or does he also have deep-pocketed admirers funding his endeavors?

Besides earning money from Facebook and YouTube, he is being supported by several governments who invite him over and sponsor his costs.

In October 2018, he faced a social media backlash mostly from the users in Singapore for using their public money to give a rosy picture of their country and ignoring the harsh realities of their political and social life.

In response, Nas reproached them by saying they are “cry babies” and that his trip to Singapore was not sponsored by the Singaporean government.

However, a few weeks later, the Singaporean government invited Nas for another visit, saying they would cover all his travel, accommodation and other costs.

His collaboration with the UAE has prompted him to make some big life changes. His girlfriend recently announced on the Instagram that they are moving to Dubai. “The plan is to be based in both Dubai AND Singapore,” she wrote.

Prior to this, Nas Daily owes his popularity in the initial days of fame, to a Nairobi-based Russian media company which bought his content for their Facebook pages, and paid him $3,000 a month. With the money, Nas was able to travel several countries, giving him much-needed exposure, experience and making him ready to go solo.

Khalid Safi, a Palestinian social media expert, says that the BDS call against Nas might prove counterproductive since it would only make him more popular no matter how controversial the content.

“DailyNas success stems from the fact that he relies on the latest digital technology, by employing creativity, entertainment aspects, and eye catching editing techniques. If we want an alternative, then we need to support pro-Palestine initiatives and offer all needed help, otherwise condemnation and calls of boycott will  fall in deaf ears,” Safi told TRT World.

Yousef Alhelou is a Palestinian journalist and political analyst based in London. He has been covering the Palestinian-Israeli affairs since 2005 and reported on the Israeli wars on Gaza in 2008 and 2012 as well as other major events. He got MA in International Relations, and currently a PhD candidate focusing on media and colonialism. He is a former Reuters journalist fellow attended Oxford University and a United Nations alumni.

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