Several people have sent me asks and private messages along these lines, so hopefully my response here answers their questions.
Hamas is the largest Islamist party in Palestine. Like other Palestinian parties, all of whom operate under Israeli occupation, it has an armed wing. Hamas has been responsible for many attacks against Israel over the years, including against noncombatants.
In 2006, the Palestinian Authority, the body set up in the Oslo Accords to manage Israel’s occupation in most of the majority Palestinian areas in the West Bank and Gaza, held legislative elections for the first time in 10 years. Hamas came in first with about 44% of the votes, but because of the proportional electoral system, it won 73 of the 132 seats.
Shortly thereafter, Mahmoud Abbas, leader of Fatah (another Palestinian party) and president of the PA, launched a coup against the elected government with the aid of Israel and America. He was successful in kicking Hamas out of the West Bank but was defeated in Gaza.
Gaza has always been under some sort of Israeli blockade since 1967. But after the elections, Israel hardened its policies and, with the help of its Egyptian ally, completely sealed off the territory.
In terms of Hamas’s overall political program and its ideology, I don’t believe that they have the support of the majority of the Palestinian people. Even when they had a reputation of non-corruption and authenticity as compared to the Fatah, they couldn’t get a bare majority of the votes.
However, since 2006, Israel has conducted 4 major massacres, the latest of which is currently happening. During these massacres, Hamas and a number of other parties — all in Gaza — have been the only ones to resist against Israel. Fateh, in control of the PA in the West Bank, has in that same time period deepened its collaboration with the occupying power and acted to protect it from international condemnation.
In terms of their resistance, Hamas has the absolute majority of all Palestinians on their side.