American and European Jewish leaders have welcomed the adoption of a controversial new definition of anti-Semitism by the European Parliament.

The vote to endorse the working definition put forward by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance last year left Jewish representatives “delighted” on Thursday morning.

“This is a monumental day for the fight against hate and the protection of the rights of European Jews,” said Moshe Kantor, president of the European Jewish Congress. “For too long, Jews were deemed unique, with hate defined by the perpetrators and not by the victims.”

He added: “The only people who will be dismayed by this decision are those who wish to continue the culture of anti-Semitic impunity and who believe that Jews should not be afforded protection under the law.”

The UK, Austria and Romania have so far adopted the IHRA definition at the level of the nation-state, and others were urged to do so, as US-based leaders of Jewish advocacy groups also welcomed the news.

Daniel Schwammenthal, director of the AJC Transatlantic Institute, said it was “a significant step toward fighting all forms of anti-Jewish hatred, including the variety that tries to hide its ugly face behind a false veneer of respectability – so-called legitimate criticism of Israel”.

He added: “Those who falsely claim the working definition limits freedom of expression are demanding the freedom to deny the Jewish people the right granted to every other people, the right to self-determination.”

The working definition, which is not legally binding, has been challenged as conflating anti-Semitism with criticism of Israel, with leading lawyers criticising its “chilling effect” on free speech.

The European Parliament is the latest institutional body to adopt the definition, which deems anti-Semitic accusations that Israel is a racist state.