Dov Waxman, a professor of political science and the co-director of Northeastern University’s Middle East Center, remembers his first teaching job in Ankara, Turkey, at the beginning of the Second Intifada. “It was a baptism of fire,” says Waxman, who is Jewish. “When they asked me questions about the Holocaust, because they hadn’t heard about it, it was very difficult to respond as a professor without getting emotional.”

By the time I took his class a couple years ago at Baruch College, Waxman had been teaching the Israeli-Palestinian conflict for a decade. He makes a point of mentioning his personal background at the start of each semester. “The first thing I try to do,” he told me recently, “is to be very honest with myself about my own biases and the way in which it may shape my outlook. Because after you do that, then you can begin the hard work of trying to free yourself from it. The most dangerous thing occurs when academics are unable or unwilling to acknowledge where they are coming from.”