Arab Israeli Facebook star teams up with Ben Stiller to feed Somalia

Andrew Tobin

TEL AVIV (JTA) — Arab Israeli Facebook star Nuseir Yassin wants you to help him “steal a plane.” It’s for a good cause.

In a video Thursday, he laid out a plan to get Turkish Airlines to fly food to Somalia, where over 6 million people need are at risk of starvation. Joined by Ben Stiller and a social media dream team, he urged his more than 600,000 followers to promote the hashtag #TurkishAirlinesHelpSomalia.

“We’re going to steal a plane — all of us, the people of the internet,” he said. “To get the airline’s attention, we’re using a hashtag like this one.”

The roughly one-minute video was the 341st Yassin has posted to his Nas Daily Facebook page in as many days. Within a few hours, it had more than 75,000 views.

A Harvard University graduate from the town of Arraba in Israel’s Lower Galilee, Yassin last year quit his well-paying job as a computer engineer at PayPal to start making the videos, which he films and uploads from around the world. The motivation was simple, he explained in video No. 339: “Look, I’m just a 25-year-old hairy kid who wants to live the best possible life and put it on Facebook in one-minute videos. That’s it.”

In his videos, Yassin wears a grey T-shirt emblazoned with a gauge that is 32 percent full, explaining that he has already used up that fraction of his life.

Yassin signed onto the Somalia campaign at the invitation of French Snapchat sensation Jerome Jarre, who got things started Wednesday with a video railing against the “revolting” silence of the “mainstream media.”Jarre also recruited Stiller, Mexican YouTube celebrity Juanpa Zurita and British Instragram influencer Chaka Clarke. Stiller’s video urging action won Twitter support — along with an insult — from fellow American Jewish comedian Sarah Silverman.

Yassin told JTA he had never before been part of a social media campaign for a cause, but the urgency of the drought in Somalia lended itself to the Internet action.

“There are two forms of media now. There’s the traditional media that Donald Trump hates, and there are people like us,” he said, referring to social media influencers. “We reach tens of millions of people, which is insane. One of our videos on social media can have the same impact as a story on CNN, and fast.”

Somalia recently declared its worsening drought a national disaster amid fears of a full-blown famine. The United Nations has warned that half the country’s population is under threat, and at least 360,000 children are severely malnourished, which means they will die within weeks unless the receive food aid. A similar crisis in 2011 killed nearly 260,000 people, more than half of them before the famine was even declared.

Yet Yassin’s video was characteristically even keeled and optimistic, a tone that has been central to his brand and allowed him to win both Jewish and Arab fans. At his family’s house in Israel for the past few months, he has posted videos about backgammon for peace, hope in the West Bank and how safe — though expensive — Israel is.” He invited first the whole country and then a haredi Orthodox Jewish friend to visit him in his hometown, of course documenting both.

Yassin said he makes money no money from his Facebook page, but earns a few thousand dollars a month by filming one-minute video advertisements, consulting and holding workshops.

Next week, he plans to fly Greece to film workers from IsraAid, an Israeli disaster relief organization, distributing food to Syrian refugees. After that, he might go to Rwanda. But he said Nas Daily is not really about humanitarian work or even solving the problems of his native country.

“I’m apolitical,” he said. “I started this just to live my life. When it stops being phone, that will be the end.”